If you didn't tune in for the Rockets' 123-120 win over the Celtics on Saturday night, shame on you. You missed a flat-out classic. I know you aren't supposed to throw that word around for a regular-season game, but I'm telling you, this game, man. Unbelievable. If the NBA were to get seven games like that in a playoff series, or even five or six, the TV ratings would shoot into orbit. If only we could do the logical thing and restructure the playoffs. More on that this week, so check back. For now, let's stay with what was one of the best games we've seen in a long time, and what it means moving forward. First, the Celtics look like they're back as a fringe title contender. It's asking a lot because they don't have the collective offensive star power of a Houston or Golden State and thus have a much smaller margin for error, but clearly when they play to their peak, they can hang with, and beat, the very best. Since the break, Boston is 4-1, albeit against four non-playoff teams -- and the offense that was starting to rely heavily, too heavily, on Kyrie Irving creating everything, has opened up again. Over the last five they're averaging a tick under 119 points per game. On Saturday they were wonderfully balanced -- 21 points for Marcus Morris, 18 each for Irving and Greg Monroe, 17 for Terry Rozier, 12 for Jayson Tatum, 11 for Marcus Smart, 10 for Al Horford (who really was pretty bad offensively all night), nine for Jaylen Brown. I'd like to see the 24 assists the Celtics tallied on Saturday even raise a bit more, maybe closer to 27 or 28. They could do that much simply by making a few more cuts to the basket. Given their perimeter athleticism and the passing ability of Horford, they should not be the 24th ranked cutting team in the league, per Synergy. Ultimately, the Celtics are not going to move the ball like the Warriors, but they make over 300 passes a game and should be able to rack up more than the 22.7 assists a night they average if they're smart and attacking with those passes. The Wizards, who like the Celtics with Kyrie can fall into relying too much on John Wall, are seeing the benefits of moving the ball more in Wall's absence.
Celtics getting back to contender status, NBA playoffs setting up to be incredible
CBS Sports | Mar 4