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The Tides in the Atlantic

Boston Celtics - After an opening-night ceremony at which they received their championship rings, Boston fell behind to Cleveland in the first half before turning up the defense in the second half for a win. I thought it was a hangover from the ceremony, but they've been flirting with the same kind of behavior since, falling behind in the first quarter of seven of their first nine games. Against a couple of Eastern Conference contenders -- Atlanta and Toronto -- the Celtics were down by double-digits in the first half before turning on the defense in the second half. As champs, they're getting every team's best every time they step on the floor. Falling behind early is not a trend they want to establish. They couldn't overcome it Friday when Denver landed a fourth-quarter knockout. Not helping this situation is a league-leading 17.1 turnovers per game.

New York Knicks - The Knicks let one slip away in the fourth quarter Sunday night, eventually losing in overtime to the Mavericks, but they've been playing well under Mike D'Antoni. Once he moved David Lee back to a reserve and got Wilson Chandler in the starting lineup, the Knicks have rolled to a 4-2 record. It's hurt Lee's fantasy production, but the Chandler's additional athleticism makes the first unit faster. He also provides better spacing for Zach Randolph. It doesn't hurt that Chris Duhon has settled in at point guard (7.4 assists/1.7 turnovers). With Danillo Gallinari looking like a lost cause this season, the Knicks are exploring buyout talks with Stephon Marbury and will add another player to the roster.

Toronto Raptors - The Raptors had lost four of five before beating the Heat Sunday with Will Solomon (11 assists) at point guard. Clearly, they aren't going to compete if Jose Calderon (hamstring) misses much time. He's expected back soon, so don't be making a rash move to get Solomon off the free-agent pile. However, the 11-assist night should give Solomon more confidence in running this team. It helped that Raptors coach Sam Mitchell adjusted is rotation and played big against Miami, starting Andrea Bargnani and using Kris Humphries off the bench. Toronto savaged the Heat on the boards, 52-35. And the move to the bench sparked Jamario Moon to his best per-minute production of the season. The height advantage worked against the Heat on Sunday, so look for Mitchell to roll with it.

Philadelphia 76ers - The Sixers have reeled off three consecutive wins and are loving the schedule maker right now. They are looking at a stretch against the Timberwolves, Clippers, Warriors and Bobcats, after thumping the Thunder on Saturday -- as of Monday, that's a combined opponent-record of 10-37. They could be looking at a seven-game winning streak when Orlando and Boston come up at the end of the month. There's been some time adjusting to having Elton Brand on the team, and who would have thought the top scorer would not have been someone named Brand or Iguodala? Thaddeus Young has been the most consistent Sixer to date, but they will need Iguodala to be better. He shot 50 percent from the floor for just the second time this season in the win over the Thunder. Willie Green is getting some playing time, but don't be fooled by his two-game stretch against the Raptors and Pacers (31 points, 12-for-25 FG, 5-for-7 3pt). See his 3-for-9 line against the Thunder and figure that's closer to reality. The Sixers love Louis Williams' athleticism and ability to get to the basket, but the dude just can't complete the package. He's a shooting guard in a point guard's body who can't shoot. He'll electrify the arena some nights, but turns the ball over way too much and has an inconsistent jump shot. Outside of maybe getting Kareem Rush on the floor to use his perimeter shooting for spacing purposes, the Sixers fantasy contributors will remain the same for now.

New Jersey Nets - Devin Harris has been phenomenal in his last three games. While dealing with a sore ankle, he's dropped 38, 30, and 33 points, respectively, in wins over Detroit, Atlanta and Atlanta. More impressively, he's been to the free-throw line 50 times in that stretch. You think he's digging the dribble-drive offense now? With Harris and Vince Cater firmly established as the team's premier offensive options, the Nets and coach Lawrence Frank find themselves in familiar territory. Good perimeter scorers with a driving point guard, but little balance on the front line. Brook Lopez has had some nice games and Josh Boone, too, though he's been inconsistent from night-to-night. However, Yi Jianlian and Bobby Simmons have been disappointments. Yi has disappeared from a few games -- he has games of zero, two, three and four points mixed in and is shooting 38 percent. His rebounds are up and that is nice coming off a preseason where he treated the boards as if they were laced with SARS. But he's been better than Simmons, who just plain hasn't shown up. The man billed as the team's third scoring option during the preseason has scored in double-digits just twice in nine games and is shooting 34 percent from the field. No wonder Harris scoring so much. He's afraid to kick it out to Simmons. With the starting forwards struggling, keep an eye on Ryan Anderson (32 points, 9-of-14 FG, 6-of-6 3pt in last two games) and Jarvis Hayes (double-figures in three of last four games). If changes are afoot, those two should benefit the most in the short term. The Nets are still high on Yi, so they'll give him some rope, but moving Simmons to the bench is something that can happen this week.



Posted by John Clemeno at 11/17/2008 5:39:00 AM
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