Celtics-Bucks has playoff implications


Celtics-Bucks has playoff implications

BOSTON The NBA season is still relatively young, but it's never too soon to think about the playoffs right?

Especially when you consider tonight's game between the Boston Celtics and the Milwaukee Bucks will be their fourth and final matchup of the season.

The game should have even more significance for the Celtics who come into the game having lost two of the three previous meetings.

Celtics coach Doc Rivers acknowledged that there is some thought given to the playoff implications after facing a team as many times as the C's have the Bucks.

"But really, I don't think about (it) that much anyway," Rivers said. "Obviously we know if we win, it's a 2-2 tie. But at the end of the day, you have to be playing well."

And that remains an issue for the Celtics, whose play tends to look like the basketball equivalent of the cha-cha slide - one step here, another step there, but never a lengthy string of steps forward.

Former Celtic and current Milwaukee Buck Marquis Daniels understands that tonight's game will give the Bucks a leg up on the C's in case both teams finish with an identical record which isn't out of the question when you consider the C's (13-12) and the Bucks (13-11) are separated by mere percentage points now.

"It would be nice to have that advantage, but our focus right now is more on us and just continuing to improve as a team," Daniels said. "We can't really think about the playoffs now. Our focus has to be on just trying to get better."

Boston's Courtney Lee had similar thoughts on the importance of tonight's game.

"We have to start winning games, first of all," Lee said. "That's our main focus now, try to get more than a two-game winning streak. Whether it's Milwaukee or whoever, we just have to starting beating teams, period."

The C's actually had one three-game winning streak this season, one that began with tonight's opponent, Milwaukee.

"Let's start up another one, a longer one," Lee said.

Report: Cavs. Pacers, Nuggets discuss deal involving George, Love

Report: Cavs. Pacers, Nuggets discuss deal involving George, Love

Don’t count the Cleveland Cavaliers out of the Paul George sweepstakes just yet.

According to ESPN’s Marc Stein and Chris Haynes, the Cavaliers are still working on a way to get George with LeBron James and Kyrie Irving in Ohio.

The latest rumor involves a three way deal being discussed between the Cavaliers, Indiana Pacers, and Denver Nuggets. According to Hayes, the deal would send George and Kenenth Faried to Cleveland and Kevin Love to Denver.

Presumably, Indiana would end up with good picks and a few young assets.

Click here for the complete story.

Will the Harris signing mean more time on the edge for Hightower?

Will the Harris signing mean more time on the edge for Hightower?

David Harris is expected to be a savvy middle linebacker who will line up his teammates when they help. He's expected to provide some level of leadership, even in his first year in New England, as an accomplished-but-hungry 33-year-old who has not yet reached a Super Bowl. 

What Harris is not expected to do is improve the Patriots pass rush. He was in on one sack in 900 snaps last season.  

But in a roundabout way he might. 

MORE: How does Derek Carr's new deal impact Jimmy Garoppolo?

There are dominos to fall now that Harris has been added to Bill Belichick and Matt Patricia's defense. How much will Harris play, and whose playing time will he cut into? Those questions don't yet have answers, but one of the more intriguing elements of the Harris acquisition is how he will benefit Dont'a Hightower's game.

If Harris can pick up the Patriots defense quickly -- and all indications are that there should be few issues there -- he could take some of the all-important communication responsibilities off of Hightower's shoulders. 

Ever since taking the reins from Jerod Mayo as the team's signal-caller, Hightower has had to be on top of all requisite pre-snap checks and last-second alignment changes. It's a critical role, and one that Hightower performs well, but those duties place some added stress on the player wearing the green dot. Perhaps if part of that load can be heaped onto Harris' plate, that might allow Hightower to feel as though he's been freed up to focus on his individual assignments.

Harris' presence might also impact where on the field Hightower is used. Hightower may be the most versatile piece on a Patriots defense loaded with them, but with Harris in the middle, Hightower could end up playing more on the edge, where he's proven he can make a major impact (see: Super Bowl LI).

For Belichick and his staff, having the ability to use one of their best pass-rushers -- and one of the most efficient rushers league-wide, per Pro Football Focus -- on the edge more frequently has to be an enticing byproduct of the move to sign Harris. Especially since there are some question marks among the team's end-of-the-line defenders behind Trey Flowers and Rob Ninkovich. 

We'll have to wait for training camp before we have an idea of how exactly Harris fits in with the Patriots defense. But the effect he'll have on his new teammates, and Hightower in particular, will be fascinating to track.