Happy New Year, everyone except for those of you in Boston. Your 2007 was happy enough, and quite honestly, we're getting tired of it.
Did you know that since October 17, the Red Sox, Patriots, and Celtics are a combined 433? Did you know that those three losses, all by the Celtics, have been by a combined total of just nine points? Truth is, the C's are just a few plays away from a 290 start that would put the Patriots' 160 record to shame.
In their latest retort to the naysayer, the Celtics went on their first West Coast trip of the season and emerged unscathed. In leaving Sacramento, Seattle, Utah, and the Lakers in its dust, Boston improved to 122 on the road and a perfect 80 against the allegedly superior Western Conference.
But the Celtics must be wary of another team breathing down their necks. While Boston's 263 record and +13.8 average victory margin is historic, the Detroit Pistons' 247 mark and +10.6 margin isn't too far behind. This is especially true when one considers that the deeper Pistons have used their bench more liberally and are likely to handle the second-half grind better, and that the Pistons gave Boston its only home defeat this season.
Nonetheless, Boston's triumphant road trip still takes the cake, putting a fitting finish on a triumphant 2007 for sports fans in the Bay State.
1 BOSTON CELTICS (263) (LW: 1): They cruised past the Lakers by 19 at the Staples Center even without point guard Rajon Rondo, as Tony Allen and Eddie House held down the fort well enough for Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to put them away.
2 DETROIT PISTONS (247) (2): Rookie Rodney Stuckey finally made his debut after missing the first two months with a hand injury. He's shown some flashes already and likely will surpass Flip Murray and Lindsey Hunter as the top backcourt reserve.
3 PHOENIX SUNS (229) (4): The Christmas loss to the Lakers was a bummer, but watching a red-hot Amare Stoudemire torch the Clippers reaffirmed my faith in this team. And they've only played 12 home games so far the schedule gets softer from here.
4 SAN ANTONIO SPURS (218) (3): Even with injuries to each of their three stars, they still have the best average victory margin in the West. And, this is a team that's made a habit of playing much better after the All-Star break.
5 LOS ANGELES LAKERS (1911) (5): They couldn't handle the step up in class against Boston, but their waxing of Utah on Friday (including a 75-point first half) was impressive.
6 DALLAS MAVERICKS (2011) (6): Looking dead-legged in back-to-back losses to Utah and Cleveland, Dallas is rekindling questions about whether they can stay with the West's upper crust without making some kind of trade.
7 NEW ORLEANS HORNETS (2011) (11): A five-game win streak ended with Tuesday's home loss to Toronto, but the Chris Paul MVP buzz is getting louder after a 40-point, nine-assist, five-steal outing to beat Memphis last Wednesday.
8 UTAH JAZZ (1716) (8): The addition of sharpshooter Kyle Korver this weekend was exactly what the team needed, even if it meant taking on a little bit of salary. Now they might actually make a 3-pointer once in a while.
9 ORLANDO MAGIC (2211) (9): They're suddenly riding a four-game win streak. While these were four close games against losing teams, the Magic seems to have regained its footing after an early-December swoon.
10 GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS (1913) (12): They started a difficult Denver-Houston-Dallas road trip with two wins. The Warriors will go for the trifecta tonight against the Mavs in what's become one of the league's best rivalries.
11 DENVER NUGGETS (1812) (7): It's been ugly on a lot of nights, but for this team to be first in the Northwest Division, despite all the injuries, is an impressive accomplishment.
12 PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS (1813) (10): The 13-game win streak finally came to an end in Utah, but they'll get a shot at revenge on Saturday. But even defeat can't cool off scorching-hot reserve James Jones : He made both 3-point tries to improve to 55% on season.
13 TORONTO RAPTORS (1615) (13): I think this team is on the cusp of being really good, but it's hard to prove it, as the Raptors continue to be wildly inconsistent.
14 HOUSTON ROCKETS (1516) (15): The ball started moving better once Tracy McGrady went out, but an injury once thought to be a minor nuisance now has him likely to be on the shelf for a few more weeks.
15 CLEVELAND CAVALIERS (1417) (18): The Cavs seemed to regain some of their defensive mojo in a road win at Dallas, and they have given up just 82, 81, and 86 points in the past three games. If they keep that up, the wins will take care of themselves.
16 ATLANTA HAWKS (1513) ( 14 ) : Veteran Anthony Johnson has momentarily solidified a point guard position that's been an ongoing headache ever since Jason Terry left. That's why the Hawks went 94 in December.
17 WASHINGTON WIZARDS (1514) (16): They rallied when Agent Zero went out, but one wonders if they're losing steam: Their past six games include losses to the Hawks, Pacers, Nets, and Bulls.
18 INDIANA PACERS (1517) (17): Another club that might struggle to keep pace after an impressive early-season run, especially now that Jamaal Tinsley's annual hamstring injury has kicked in.
19 CHICAGO BULLS (1118) (20): Ben Gordon is thriving in his new sixth-man role, scoring 95 points in three games since new coach Jim Boylan made him a sub.
20 PHILADELPHIA 76ERS (1417) (21): The trade of Kyle Korver to Utah was a sweet move by new Sixers GM Ed Stefanski, who should have about $10 million in cap space this summer to offer to the likes of Elton Brand or Gilbert Arenas.
21 NETS (1416) (22): Rod Thorn hired former Nuggets GM Kiki Vandeweghe to take over as his top lieutenant. Um, just asking here, but isn't Vandeweghe the guy who traded three no. 1 picks to overpay Kenyon Martin?
22 SACRAMENTO KINGS (1118) (20): A valiant effort is being undone by the fact that they're running out of players. Now it's Ron Artest who's sidelined, as he'll need surgery on his elbow to remove a bone chip.
23 LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS (1019) (26): With Cuttino Mobley and Sam Cassell healthy again, the Clips aren't such huge pushovers anymore. They have the next five at home to try to get back into the playoff chase.
24 CHARLOTTE BOBCATS (1118) (27): Another club teetering on the brink of respectability behind the improved play of Gerald Wallace and Jason Richardson. They'll be at the Meadowlands on Friday.
25 MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES (822) (25): Pau Gasol trade rumors are starting anew after a rough start to the season, but the Griz aren't ready to play "Let's Make A Deal" just yet.
26 MIAMI HEAT (823) (21): How the mighty have fallen. Wait, it gets worse: Shaq still has two years left on his deal after this one at $20 million per, and the Heat's hands are tied until the contract ends.
27 MILWAUKEE BUCKS (1119) (23): Still trying to figure out why they were in such a hurry to fire Terry Stotts and hire Larry Krystkowiak last spring especially after Monday's 11469 mail-in job against Detroit.
28 SEATTLE SONICS (922) (28): P.J.'s gang finished December at a respectable 67, so Seattle's starting to figure things out. But eight of the next 10 are on road, so they could be in store for some more beatings.
29 MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES (426) (29): They play every night. Which is more than can be said for
30 KNICKS (821) (30): Here are some key stats for December. Wins: Three. Double-digit home losses: Four. Coaching changes: Zero. Happy New Year, Knicks fans.