Winning Atlantic won't be easy for Celtics

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Winning Atlantic won't be easy for Celtics

PHILADELPHIA Ever since the Big Three era in Boston began, it was a given that the Atlantic Division race wasn't really a race at all.

The Celtics (20-18) would have no problem finishing first, while the rest of the division would fight for whatever playoff seeding scraps were left behind.

This season is one with lots of changes throughout the NBA, including the race to the top of the Atlantic; it's actually a race now.

So far, it's a race the C's aren't winning.

Boston's 32-point drubbing at the hands of Philadelphia on Wednesday night -- the worst loss in the Big Three era -- robbed the Celtics of a chance at taking over the top spot in the division ahead of the Sixers (23-17).

A number of factors have contributed to this season being such a struggle for the Celtics to get the top spot in the Atlantic, a place they have finished each of the past four seasons.

Since the Atlantic Division was formed prior to the 1970-1971 season, only two teams have won it five or more consecutive seasons.

The C's did it first between 1972-1977, and they did it again about a decade later (1983-1988).

Only by winning the division can a team assure themselves of having home court advantage in at least the first round of the playoffs.

And with so many teams in the Atlantic hovering around the .500 mark, winning the division could mean the difference between beginning the playoffs at home, or starting off on the road against Miami or Chicago.

That in itself makes Wednesday's loss a tough one for the Celtics, even if the players won't fully embrace the notion.

For the very same reasons that beating New York on Sunday was important for them -- division rivalry, potential playoff seeding, importance of winning head-to-head matchup -- so should have been the value of Wednesday's game.

Paul Pierce acknowledged the loss to the Sixers was an important game, "we gotta win as many games as possible."

He added, "If we still have a better record than Philly, New York, New Jersey and other teams, then we still get that top seed regardless of our division record."

Rajon Rondo echoed Pierce's comments.

"We want to get the best seed possible, regardless of the division," Rondo said. "We want to try to continue to win games. The bottom line is we want to win, win, win."

A hungry ballplayer: Ex-Sox prospect Moncada once ate 85 Twinkies a week

A hungry ballplayer: Ex-Sox prospect Moncada once ate 85 Twinkies a week

This isn’t your average young and hungry player on the brink of the big leagues.

Yoan Moncada, the ex-Red Sox prospect who was one of the principal pieces in the trade for Chris Sale, ate 85 Twinkies in a week, his agent told ESPN The Magazine

David Hastings, Moncada's agent, clarified to CSNNE that this was a one-time thing when Moncada first arrived in the U.S. Moncada had never had Twinkies before, Hastings said, so he was like "a kid in a candy store."

He's still in great shape. Moncada had a huge spring training with the White Sox after a disappointing major-league debut with Boston in September. 

The 21-year-old third baseman has been optioned out of big-league camp, so he’s slated to start the year in Triple-A. But he hit .317 with a .391 on-base percentage and .683 slugging percentage and 3 home runs in 41 at-bats — some of the best numbers anywhere.

Moncada took a $31.5 million signing bonus from the Red Sox, money that the Sox turned into Sale. Moncada, meanwhile, didn’t exactly invest every cent.

Twinkies weren’t his only indulgence. 

More from the story: 

Moncada had money to spend on drones, video games, toys and clothes. He sometimes spent $1,500 or more during nights out, David says. After he purchased the second $200,000 car, Josefa [Hastings, David’s wife] tried to talk some sense into him.

Hastings reinforced to CSNNE that the message to Moncada was to invest in things that appreciate in value.

Belichick headlines big-name crowd in attendance at Ohio State pro day

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Belichick headlines big-name crowd in attendance at Ohio State pro day

Bill Belichick has counted both Urban Meyer and Greg Schiano among the list of coaches he trusts. On Thursday, the Patriots coach was in attendance at Ohio State's pro day to watch players who've been coached by both. 

Belichick has been closely tied to both Meyer and Schiano over the years, drafting multiple players from their programs when Meyer was at the University of Florida and Schiano was at Rutgers University. The Schiano connection has been particularly strong in recent years as Belichick's son, Steve, played for Schiano, and the Patriots had three key players in their secondary -- Devin McCourty, Duron Harmon and Logan Ryan -- for the last four seasons who studied under Schiano. 

Now the head coach and associate head coach/defensive coordinator, respectively, Meyer and Schiano have tutored some of this year's top draft prospects. Here's a quick breakdown of some of the top-tier talent hailing from Columbus this year . . . 

Malik Hooker, safety: The 6-foot-1, 206-pounder is expected to be the first true free safety off the board. His impressive ball skills made him a turnover waiting to happen in the Big Ten. 

Marshon Lattimore, corner: With a 38.5-inch vertical and a 4.36-second 40-yard dash time, Lattimore is one of the best draft-eligible athletes this year. He was hampered by hamstring injuries in college, but he's still projected to be one of the first defensive backs taken. 

Gareon Conley, corner: Among the draft's fastest risers after putting together a strong combine (4.44 40-yard dash, 6.68-second three-cone), Conley will give his next team good size (6-feet, 195 pounds) and length (33-inch arms). He may not be as polished as Lattimore, but still could very well be a first-round pick.

Pat Elflein, center: This smart, hard-working pivot may not have the world's best footwork, but he should be among the first players taken at his position. Elflein (6-foot-3, 300 pounds) is a former wrestler who has experience at both center and guard. 

Curtis Samuel, receiver: A true all-purpose threat in college (AP All-American, first-team All-Big Ten), he could have trouble adapting to life as a full-time receiver in the NFL. At 5-11, 196 pounds that's probably where he'll end up.

Raekwon McMillan, linebacker: At 6-2, 240 pounds McMillan was a second-team All-American and a first-team All-Big Ten choice. He's instinctive, but there's some concern as to whether or not he has the strength to hold up inside at the next level. The Patriots, as we've noted, have been looking at the linebacker position throughout the pre-draft process.