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Posted on: April 2, 2009 4:24 pm
Edited on: April 2, 2009 8:08 pm
 

MLB Pre-season Power Rankings 2009

Who knows what team is going to finish on top when it is all said and done, but these are the best teams in the land as it stands today:

1) Chicago Cubs - They might have a history of losing, and they have been a popular preseason pick for the last few years only to eventaully fall short of the fall classic, but on paper this is clearly the best team in the NL and arguably the entire MLB. The heart of the order (Soriano, Lee, Ramirez, and Bradley) is as dangerous as any in the game, Soto is a top 5 catcher, and Ryan Theriot and Mike Fontenot are the most underrated middle infielders in the NL. The Cubs rotation featuring Carlos Zambrano, Rich Harden, Ryan Dempster, and Ted Lilly, if they can stay healthy, could be a formitable post-season staff. Don't forget about the 1-2 punch of Marmol and Gregg in the back of the pen to close down the game.

2) Tampa Bay Rays - I think it's safe to say the Rays aren't going to surprise anyone this year. They are returning every starter from last year's World Series squad, plus they've added Pat Burrell in right field and have a totally healthy Carl Crawford (who Buster Olney has predicted will win the AL MVP award in 2009). The rotation in Tampa is so solid that they could afford to send down David Price to start the year in the minors. The bullpen which sported the best ERA in the AL last season has for the most part returned as well. The only question facing the Rays is can they outlast the other two contenders in the AL East.

3) New York Yankees - No secret here, the Yanks had a huge off-season and that has given them the potential to grab the #1 spot in the power rankings sooner than later. The two biggest concerns going into the season for New York have to be the Burnett's injury plagued past and the health of Jorge Posada, who could see more time at DH than catcher this year. The knock of the Yankee's lineup is that they are getting old...but the fact is that they aren't dead yet. With All-stars at positions around the field, look for the Yanks to go big this season.

4) Boston Red Sox - The reason the Red Sox are behind both the Rays and Yankees is because they have so many question marks. Is Varitek going to kill them at the plate? Can Penny, Smoltz, and Wakefield fill in the back of the rotation? Is Jed Lowrie going to hurt them at shortstop? Even with all of these nagging issues, the Red Sox are returning the core of their ALCS losing team from 2008, and with potential ace Jon Lester, as well as Beckett and Matsuzaka, fronting the Sox rotation, Boston has as good a chance as any at taking the AL East crown.

5) Philadelphia Phillies - Even without a third baseman, the Phillies still have the best infield in the game. Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, and Jimmy Rollins hardly need support in the lineup to score runs, but they are accompanied by Shane Victorino and new-comer Raul Ibanez who are looking to grab a second straight WS title. The rotation for the Phillies is the major question mark. Hamels is a top 5 starter in the NL, but can Moyer, Blanton, and Myers repeat the success they had in 2008? If not, then the Phillies may find themselves finishing behind the Braves and Mets in the powerful NL East.

6) Los Angeles Angels - The Angels probably have the best overall staff from front (Lackey) to back (Arrendondo, Shields, Fuentes). It is hard to say that your team is going to struggle scoring runs when you have Vladamir Guererro, Bobby Abreu, and Torri Hunter batting in heart of the lineup, but other than those three sluggers the Angels are full of question marks. Are we going to see the Chone Figgins of 2007 or 2008? What can Mike Nappoli contribute as a full time catcher? Aybar? Morales? Rivera? The Angels are good enough to win the AL West, but keep the 6th spot in the MLB power rankings? Question mark.

7) New York Mets - They have the ace in Santana. They have the top young studs in Reyes and Wright. They have a the powerful veterans in Delgado and Beltran. Now they have a top 5 closer/setup man combo. All that's left is for the Mets to put it all together and they will be untoucable in the NL East. Putting it all together, however, has been tough for the Mets of late, but look for them to break out in a big way in 2009.

8) Arizona Diamondbacks - For some reason the Dodgers and Giants are heavy favorites to take the NL West, but the Dbacks have better starting pitching than either club and their lineup is far better than San Fran's with the potential of being this year's Tampa Bay young-hitter break out squad. With Young, Drew, Jackson, and Upton beginning the season as potential all-stars, it is very possible that these guys run away with the NL West (Sorry Dodger fans...Manny will break your heart, just wait).

9) Minnesota Twins - It is one of the biggest mysteries in baseball: the Twins always win. Ask someone to name four players on the twins and they will get as far Mauer, Morneau, and Nathan before giving up. But the fact remains: this team, through smart hitting, great fielding, and constant hustle, knows how to win. Scott Baker, Kevin Slowey, and Fransisco Liriano front a top of the line, young rotation and youngsters by the name of Span, Gomez, and Casilla will all help to get the Twins to the top of the AL Central.

10) Atlanta Braves - They are no Maddux, Glavine, and Smoltz, but Derek Lowe, Jair Jurrjens, and Javier Vasquez front a very potent rotation down in Georgia. When the Braves were dominating the NL East they relied on quality pitching, but if they are to challenge the Mets and Phillies for the title in 2009 they are going to have to do it with the bats as well. That means Chipper Jones is going to have to stay healthy, Brian McCann will have to remain the best hitting catcher in the NL, and Kotchman, Schafer, and Escobar are going to have to live up to all of their potential.

11) Chicago White Sox - We all know that Dye, Quentin, Konerko, and Thome can pack a big punch, but the White Sox are going to have to rely more on the young bats of Ramirez, Getz, and Fields to fight through the crowd at the top of the AL Central. Bobby Jenks is a top five closer...but the fact is that he can't start in place of Contreras and Colon in the back of the rotation. If either of those two flop (likely) you could see the young arms of Jack Egbert or Aaron Poreda making their debuts, which could be a good thing for Chicago.

12) Cleveland Indians - So many questions, but so much talent. My preseason pick for AL MVP is Grady Sizemore and he could easily lead this tribe team to the playoffs. Lee and Carmona are a solid 1-2 in the rotation, and Kerry Wood will sure up their abysmal bullpen from a year ago. If Hafner bounces back and Martinez stays healthy, the Indians are going to be very dangerous.

13) San Diego Padres - My surprise team in the power rankings (will probably come back to bite me). I love Peavy and Young at the front of the rotation. Don't forget, this is the same team that everyone was picking to win the NL West pre-season a year ago. They still have a solid nucleus in Gonzalez as well as a load of talent around the outfield. When people don't expect a lot from them, the Padres are at their best. Watchout.

14) Detroit Tigers - After attempting to construct a team of all-stars in 2008 in hopes of returning to the World Series, the Tigers were miserable. But they have scaled back in 2009 and parted ways with the likes of Ivan Rodriguez and Gary Sheffield. The 3-4 holes filled by Ordonez and Cabrera are some of the best in the game, but Detroit has major question marks following Verlander in the rotation, the back of the bullpen, and the left side of the infield.

15) Los Angeles Dodgers - They have the hall of famer in the middle of the lineup surrounded by great young talent, but not only is Chad Billingsly more of a #2 or #3 than an ace, but there isn't another arm in the starting rotation that you would really consider reliable. Kuroda, Kershaw, and Wolf all have different levels of potential, but I don't see this staff matchup with with the Webb/Haren, Lincecum/Cain, or even Peavy/Young combinations in the NL West. And we know the Dodgers aren't known for outscoring people...

16) St. Louis Cardinals - They have Pujols. That alone could be enough to get them in wild-card contention...which is good because other than Ryan Ludwick they don't have anyone else.

17) Milwakee Brewers - They are going to go through some growing pains without Sheets and Sabathia, but I still like any club with Braun and Fielder manning the middle of the lineup to contend for a playoff spot...even if their rotation does look a little raggedy.

18) Toronto Blue Jays - Halladay is the best pitcher in baseball...too bad all he has to support him are Vernon Well and Alex Rios. Playing the the AL East, don't expect much from the Blue Jays (although the same was said about the Rays of 2008).

19) Florida Marlins - All the potential in the world. A few all-stars and an MVP candidate mixed in with potential studs. The Marlins have done more with less.

20) San Fransisco Giants - They've built a pretty solid rotation...but I'm not sure if adding Edgar Renteria to one of the worst lineups in baseball is going to make a difference.

21) Oakland Athletics - Improved the lineup dramatically with Giambi, Cabrera, and Holliday, the question is whether or not the young arms of Braden, Cahill, and Anderson can live up to the hype.

22) Cinncinati Reds - They have a few young studs in Dickerson, Bruce, and Votto, not to mention a decent starting staff...look for the Reds to turn a few heads in the NL Central.

23) Texas Rangers - Same old story. Amazing lineup, marginal arms. Are you going to bet the farm on Millwood and Padilla as your big 1-2 punch? And Kris Benson? I thought his arm fell off 3 years ago...

24) Houston Astros - Great talent in Oswalt, Berkman, and Lee...other than that it isn't looking like the Astros are going to get by the Cards and Cubbies. Ps...if Mike Hampton makes more than 10 starts I will be shocked.

25) Baltimore Orioles - Name a single starting pitcher besides their "Ace" Jeremy Guthrie...enough said.

26) Colorado Rockies - Dealing away Holliday spelled doom for the Rockies in 2009...you don't give up your best player if you think you have a shot.

27) Kansas City Royals - Decent young players...nothing too special though. If Gordon, Butler, and Jacobs break out they are still only going to be mediocre.

28) Seattle Mariners - They are already talking about who they are going to deal Bedard to at the trading deadline...and I'm tired of hearing talk about Beltre's "breakout contract season"...he's mediocre, get over it.

29) Pittsburgh Pirates - Who are they going to deal at the deadline this year for marginal talent?

30) Washington Nationals - If only Teixeira could have taken a hometown discount...

 

Posted on: March 18, 2009 9:09 pm
Edited on: March 19, 2009 3:38 pm
 

Celtics Weekly: Get Serious On Defense

I can't possibly be the only person watching the Celtics and Heat play right now that is noticing the Celtics have no energy on defense. Boston, both last night against the Bulls and tonight vs. the Wadeless Heat, seem content to sit back and give the opposition open shots in hopes of simply outscoring teams who can put up points as well as anyone in the league.

The stat ESPN just showed is that without Kevin Garnett the Celtics are giving up 99.5 points per game as apposed to 91.6 points per game with the Big Ticket in the lineup.

The fact is that the Celtics aren't missing KG's stats at either end of the floor. When Leon Powe and Glenn Davis played Garnett's minutes they were matching his numbers point for point and board for board. So if Garnett's statistical production is being accounted for, why are the Celtics only 9-6 when he is out of the lineup this season?

Simple Answer: Leadership. You can say all you want about Paul Pierce being the captain of this team, but when the Celtics are out on the floor Garnett is the general. KG is the one who is not only organizing the troops on defense, but moving the ball around on the offensive end of the floor to ensure the C's are getting legitimate production. The Celtics without KG are so unbelievable unpatient when they have the ball it is sickening. They are very reminiscent of my cousin's high school team (his team was 4-20 this season).

I know it isn't in the Celtics' nature to panic, especially with a playoff spot locked up, and I also don't usually take what Mark Jackson says to heart, but he made a comment earlier in the telecast tonight when he said, "I hope the Celtics don't get in the habit of thinking it is okay to lose games". Right now Boston has come out and acknowledged that winning is secondary to being healthy. It makes sense to a point that being healthy for the playoffs is more important that having an amazing regular season record, but if the Celtics stumble their way into the postseason, is it even going to matter if they are heathly? 

 

Posted on: March 2, 2009 6:56 pm
Edited on: March 2, 2009 8:04 pm
 

Celtics Weekly: Long Road Ahead for Scuffling C's


After going a marginal 3-3 over their last 6, Bostons find themselves stumbling into a stretch of games which sees them matched up against 3 of the top 5 teams in the Eastern Conference. With Kevin Garnett remaining out of the lineup for this entire period of play, there are several guys who the Celtics are going to turn to to stem the tide and keep them in the hunt for homecourt throughout the playoffs:

Marbury may be the focal point, but he is just one of a handfull of guys that needs to play solid basketball in order for the Celtics to succeedStephon Marbury: The guy can play, but the guy is clearly rusty. After not seeing any NBA action in over a year Marbury came out guns ablazing against Indiana, scoring 8 points off the bench, including 6 big ones in the final period. Yesterday against the Pistons, however, Marbury showed just exactly what an exented hiatis from the game can do to a guy, shooting 0-3 from the floor and having his pocket picked twice as he was walking up the court by the undrafted, career bench-warmer Will Bynum. The Celtics picked this guy up because he was a scorer that could run the point and compliment Eddie House off the bench. Therefore, what the Celtics need out of him is one thing: points. Marbury needs to go out and shoot and drive until he starts drawing double teams that open up House behind the arc or Leon Powe down low.

Glenn "Big Baby" Davis: This guy is a shorter, rounder Kevin Garnett on offense...but with less court vision. Davis has shown his ability to step back and hit the mid-range jumper the Big Ticket is so fond of, but what Baby is unable to do is dish like KG. If Davis can somehow get his passing game going by dishing out to Ray Allen or hitting a cutting Rajon Rondo, then his value on offense is going to skyrocket. Defensively he gives you all of the effort his 6-9 frame can give...and although hustle makes up for some of his inadequacies, let's face it, he is going to have to play out of his mind to even come close to filling KG's shoes on the defensive end of the floor.

Mikki Moore: The Celtics' new big man could also be the biggest question mark on the roster right now. What kind of player do we really have here? Did another P.J. Brown just fall into our laps? Or is this guy going to be soft inside like Patrick O'Bryant? After seeing him in action I'm just not sure. His tenure in the league certainly suggests that he is capable of playing ball, but his propencity for settling for jumpers instead of taking to the rack is a little scary. If Mikki Moore can establish himself as the guy down low to compliment Leon Powe off the bench, so Powe can drop back and play the 4, then the C's bench is going to be dynomite.

 

 

Posted on: February 23, 2009 1:36 pm
Edited on: February 23, 2009 2:28 pm
 

Celtics Weekly: Life Without KG a Good Thing?

Okay, I wouldn't go that far, but the Celtics haven't exactly folded under the pressure when Kevin Garnett hasn't been able to suit up. Don't get me wrong, I would much rather see #5 in the lineup than not, but over the last two seasons The Big Ticket has missed a total of 15 games, during which the C's have gone an impressive 13-2 including last night's 128-108 victory over the Phoenix Suns.

With Garnett out of the lineup, there were several nagging aspects of the Celtics' game that were highlighted:

Can Perkins, Davis, and Powe carry Boston down low for 3 weeks? When the trio of "centers" on the Celtics' roster picked up a combined 5 personal fouls in the first 6 minutes of the game last night working on Shaq, I know I wasn't the only one saying, "this is going to be a long 2-3 weeks with these three knuckleheads as the only options to play the five." The three-amigos went on to shoot 8-9 from the field for a combined 20 points and 15 boards and only picked up 6 fouls the rest of the way. If Big Baby can show some consistancy shooting jumpers, Powe maintains his intensity down low, and Perkins keeps developing offensively down low the C's should be able to fight the Cavs for the #1 playoff spot in the East until KG gets back.

Can Perkins, Davis, Powe, and Garnett carry Boston down low throughout the playoffs? When the trade between the Hornets and Thunder fell through there was much rejoicing in Beantown because Joe Smith was not only once again on the block, but outwardly saying he wanted to come and play for the Celtics. Even after the trade deadline passed, the 13-year vet, who at 6-10 and accustomed to coming off the bench, would be the perfect fit in the Boston lineup, said that he was looking for a buyout of his contract so he could join the defending champs. Yesterday the former #1 overall pick quelled those rumors saying he was staying in Oklahoma City for the remainder of the season. I wouldn't give up hope, however. Oklahoma City has no shot at the playoffs, and since they were unable to move Smith's expiring $4.7 million contract he has no value left, and the team could use Smith's playing time to develop younger talent. Although Smith said he's staying put, it wouldn't be the first time that an athlete said something that was changed later.

How good is Rajon Rondo? Simple answer, he's pretty good. However, don't expect the Celtics' point guard to start consistantly hitting threes as the shot clock expires, shooting 75% from the field, and dropping 30 points a night. Remember, earlier this year Rondo set his career high in points against these same Suns at 25 before besting that number by 1 the following night. It is no secret that the Suns' defensive is utterly miserable and expect Rondo to come back to Earth tonight when he matches up against Chauncey Billups in Denver. He will score more without KG in the lineup, but I'm thinking somewhere along the lines of 18 points per night, up from his season average of nearly 12.

Posted on: January 14, 2009 10:04 pm
 

Celtics Weekly: 3 down,17 to go for new record...

It seems all the Boston Celtics needed to get back on track was a short stretch of games against the relatively pathetic Atlantic Division. After thoroughly throttling the Raptors in Toronto, then coming home to squeek one out against the same Raptor squad in overtime, the C's knocked off the Nets to make it a cool three in row before heading off to New Jersey for their second straight home and home.

So what happened to that team that went on a 2-7 streak over the last few weeks? We can only hope that they have gone far away for a long time, but what has changed over the last three contests (putting aside the fact that the games were against lesser opponents) is the following:

1) Getting the ball to the big-3: Over the last three games Paul Pierce has averaged 24 points (4 above his season avg.), Garnett 18 (2 above his season avg.), and Allen 20 (2 above his season avg.). Those slight PPG increase may not seem like a big deal, but if the big-3 had scored 8 points a game more during the previous nine games, the C's go 7-2, their only loses coming to the Golden State and Cleveland.

2) Rondo's confidence: Because Rajon Rondo has won a championship, sometimes you forget that this is only his second year as a starting pointguard and he is subject to those same distractions that affect other young players...like someone taking your job. When the rumors of Stephon Marbury signing with the Celtics were at the height, Rondo was at his worst. Whereas before he was driving the lane, both dishing and scoring, he fell into a rut where he averaged more than a turnover a game more than his season average. Last three games, back to normal for Rondo's solid 3/1 assist to turnover ratio.

3) Energy Level and Confidence: There is no statistic that can quantifiy the effort put into a game or the pressure players put on themselves to succeed. During the losing streak, the Celtics were PITIFUL in the fourth quarter shooting the basketball around 29% from the floor. The only explanation for that is they were pressing. When you have lost a number of games in a row, all you can think as the clock is winding down is, "let's just not lose this one" instead of "let's do what it takes to win". The C's clearly have the veterans that can change that mentality in a snap, which they've done over the last week and Boston's composure against the Raptors in a tight spot in overtime confirmed that the good old Celts that won 19 in a row are back...and hopefully up for another 19.

On a side note, how much fun was it to watch back to back games where the centers for both teams tossed up threes like shooting guards. When Brian Scalabrine and Andrea Bargnani were matchup up against each other, both Toronto and Boston were basically playing centerless with an extra small forward on the floor. The two "centers" combined for 9-20 from behind the arc over the two game span...not bad for a couple of big white boys.

Posted on: January 7, 2009 1:30 pm
 

Celtics Weekly: Positive Spin on recent 2-5

I know, I know. Since breaking the longest franchise winning streak the Celtics are only 2 up and a stunning 5 down. However, I am here to offer all of the Boston fans, who I know are beside themselves right now, a little positive food for thought. Here are a few reasons why there shouldn't be Basketball panic in Bean Town:

1) 29-7 is an amazing record. If you were asked before the season if you would be happy with the Celtics winning 29 of their first 36 games, I'm sure every one of you would say "yes!". When you're the defending champs, everyone comes out gunning for you, and to tell you the truth, I'm surprised the Celts didn't go on a losing streak long before this.

2) The other top teams are sliding as well. Although not on as grand a scale, the Cavs and Magic, who are the C's top competitors in the East, have hit their own rough patches. Orlando has lost 2 of their last 5 (Detroit, Toronto) and the Cavs have dropped 2 of 3, one of those loses coming at the hands of the lowly Washington Wizards who the Celtics spanked a week ago by 25. This just goes to show that good teams can lose.

3) There is only one thing consistantly going wrong for Boston: 3-point offense and defense. Over the last 5 games the Celtics have been at or around their season averages in rebounds, assists, steals, points in the paint, turnovers, and pretty much everyone other offensive and defensive stat except for 3-point percentage. Compare these stats to their season averages of 36.3% (offensive) and 32.9 (defensive):

1/28 @ Sacramento: Celtics 6-18 (33%), Kings 4-18 (22%) WIN

12/30 @ Portland: Celtics 3-14 (21%), Trail Blazers 6-15 (40%) LOSS

1/2 vs. Washington: Celtics 12-20 (60%), Wizards 2-12 (16%) WIN

1/4 @ New York: Celtics 6-25 (23%), Knicks 9-22 (40%) LOSS

1/6 @ Charlotte: Celtics 6-23 (26%), Bobcats 7-16 (43%) LOSS

When 3-point field goal percentage is down, look no further than Ray Allen, who is shooting well below is season average during the last two weeks. The C's struggled when Allen slumped last season as well, but one of the NBA's all-time best shooters will turn it around, and so will Boston. The three-point defense is also a product of Allen's shooting woes because when the C's don't hit shots, their opponents get leads, and when you have leads you can wait for the open shot more patiently and find guys that are open behind the arc. The most important thing is, when you only have one thing that is broken, your team is not hard to fix.

Posted on: January 3, 2009 9:09 pm
 

Boston Fans: SMARTEN UP!

I live in New York, but for the holidays I went and stayed with my parents near Boston for a week. While I was driving around Massachusetts I got to listen to WEEI (which is a treat, because I only get ESPN radio in NY), but what I heard from most callers was very disapointing.

People were calling into the radio station talking about complete nonsense, which made me realize, "this is why sports fans from other cities hate us". Here are some of the things Boston sports fans were calling into WEEI to talk about that are absolutely ridiculous:

RED SOX:

"Come on Theo and do something already!" - Why do the Red Sox need to do something just for the sake of doing something? What does he really need to do? The Sox made it to within a game of the World Series last year and he has all the same players as last year, plus a healthy Lowell and Ortiz. The only pressing issues were (1) signing a 4th starter, which he did signing Brad Penny, (2) sign a catcher, locking up Varitek is just a matter of time, and (3) maybe strengthening the bullpen, which he has done as well.

"We should trade everyone we have for Jake Peavy" - Why? So we can forfeit or future like the Yankees have been doing? Peavy would legitimately be the #4 starter on this team, and the Sox don't need a team full of All-stars. Just because the Sox have money doesn't mean they have to go nuts in the off-season.

"The Sox need to do something the improve the bottom of the lineup" - Come on people, Lowell, Lowrie, and Varitek are going to be just fine. We're talking about the WS MVP from 2007 and the guy who got the ALDS winning hit batting 7th and 8th, not too shabby. And if Varitek happens to struggle at the plate again, so what? What team has a really good #9 hitter?

Patriots:

"The Patriots got screwed out of the playoffs, the NFL should change their system" - Is there a rule that says an 11 win team is automatically in the playoffs? If the Patriots really deserved to get into the playoffs then they would have beaten a playoff team. "But the Chargers were only 8-8!" Yeah, and they beat the Pats. If Patriots had beaten the Bolts, Colts, Steelers, or Dolphins (twice) they would have been in. If you can't beat playoff teams, you don't deserve to be the in playoffs.

"Franchise Cassel and just piece together the rest of the team with whatever money is left over" - great plan...spend 1/3 of your total cap on a single position. The Patriots NEED help in the secondary, and if they franchise Cassel there is no money to bolster their defensive backfield.

CELTICS:

"The Celtics have no shot of winning the championship with their current team make-up, the need Stephon Marbury" - Nobody NEEDS Stephon Marbury. This town just got rid of Manny Ramirez, now we want him right back. Unless the Celtics put a claus in his contract that reads, "if Stephon distrupts the team in any way he will be immediately cut" I don't want to see him. Do whatever it takes to get P.J. Brown out of retirement or start developing Patrick O'Bryant because we don't need a PG, we need a big man. ----Ps. If the Celtics sign Marbury, all you crazies would go nuts whenever Scalabrine touches the ball are going to start crying because guess whose playing time the little guy is going to steal....

I know there are very well educated Boston sports fans out there, because I see their posts on this site all the time (yes, I do see the dumb ones too). I just wish more people, who I have no choice but to be associated with, would do a little homework before running their mouths about things they don't understand.

Posted on: December 29, 2008 10:46 am
 

Celtics Weekly: C's still the team to beat?

It started out as a Christmas vacation for the ages. The Pats could gain a playoff birth in the final week of the season, the Sox could land Mark Teixeira and be on their way to another title, and the Celtics could win 20 in a row by knocking off the Lakers at home on Christmas day.

It didn't quite turn out that way.

But with the Patriots season over and with the burner on the Red Sox Hot Stove Report turned down to a simmer, we turn our attention fully to the Celtics (and Bruins I suppose). So after a pair of West Coast losses are the C's still the team to beat? The answer to that question is an simply: Yes.

While the loss on Christmas day to the Lakers was disapointing, it in no way proved that Los Angeles is the better team. At times L.A. even looked desperate as Luke Walton and Lamar Odom uncharacteristically tossed up threes (the two had made a combined 11 3-pointers the entire season coming into the game and knocked down 2 each against the C's) and the ever improving Rajon Rondo was able to pick apart the Laker D even though he was mired in foul trouble from the openning whistle.

Then the following day, putting aside the "let down" factor of having a long winning streak snapped, Golden State is just one of those teams that can't necissarily be stopped by a good defense. The Warriors are a team of free-shooting point-scorers that take bad shots and, if they make them, are impossible to stop. The Celtics ran into them on a hot night, just like the Lakers ran into a Sacramento team that had a hot hand last week and lost. Those things happen.

Here are several reason why the Celtics are still the best team in the land:

1) It was just a loss. Sports analyst and fans alike played up this Christmas day matchup to be some sort of NBA finals equivalent. The fact of the matter is that it was just one more notch in the loss column for Boston. It counts the same as the losses to Indiana, Denver, and Golden State. In the long term, all that matters is that the Celtics finish the season with a better record than the Cavs and Magic.

2) The Celtics are getting better. After their record setting 19th straight win Greg Dickerson asked Kevin Garnett if the Celtics could get better, to which he responded "hell yeah" several times (with apologies to all of the children who might have heard him). One of the things Boston's big man stressed was that the C's had to play consistent defense and not allow any period of let-up for the entire game. Last night against Sacramento the Kings never scored more than 17 points in any quarter. Thanks for the pep-talk KG!

3) Boston is not satisfied. After Los Angeles beat the Celtics on Christmas Day there were streamers and confetti raining down from the ceiling like they had just won the NBA championship. What non-sense. Boston has become a championship city and after the Patriots went 16-0 and then lost the Superbowl, the athletes and fans in this town know that winning streaks and regular season records can be forgotten, but championship remain in the rafters forever.

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com