Jared Sullinger, Andray Blatche

Celtics show promise in Christmas win. Nets… it wasn’t pretty.

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Boston should be better than a .500 team, which is how they came into Christmas Day. We keep expecting them to have a nice easy win, a jumpstart to start finding their groove. They need to find a team that would roll over and pretty much die for them.

Enter the Nets on Christmas.

How ugly were the Nets? Their CEO Brett Yormark tweeted after the game: “Nets fans deserved better today. The entire organization needs to work harder to find the solution. We will get there.”

The struggling Nets offense shot 40.6 percent for the game and had an offensive rating of 88.6 points per 100 possessions. Combine that with Boston getting good production off the bench from Jared Sullinger (16 points) and Jeff Green (15) and you get an easy 93-76 Celtics win.

If you want to know about this game, it essentially ended in the second quarter when Boston outscored Brooklyn 34-18. The Nets shot 36.8 percent for the quarter as they went with a smaller lineup. The Celtics picked up their defense, then Boston turned the stops into some easy buckets going the other way in transition. Jason Terry had 8 points in the quarter and was +16 in the 12 minutes to help push the win.

That quarter just seemed to deflate the Nets, which has happened a lot lately. In the second half, Gerald Wallace played hard and killed it, the rest of the Nets went through the motions. For the game Brook Lopez shot 5-of-12, Joe Johnson 4-of-14 and Andray Blatche 3-of-9. Deron Williams had 10 points and 6 assists, Rajon Rondo had 19.

The Nets have lost four of their last five and 9 of their last 12.

But as bad as the Nets were, don’t let this take away from a quality win for the Celtics. They came out and played hard, played smart and played like a team starting to figure it out. Maybe they will, remember they started last season 15-17 before flipping the switch. There are still questions about consistency of the bench play and what happens to their defense when Kevin Garnett sits, but they needed a few nice wins to get a flow going.

This could be one. They found a perfect doormat to get healthy against.

Love returns to Cavaliers’ lineup after missing 1 game

Cleveland Cavaliers' Kevin Love, right, drives past Phoenix Suns’ P.J. Tucker during the second half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2016, in Cleveland. The Cavaliers won 115-93. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
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CLEVELAND (AP) — Cleveland Cavaliers forward Kevin Love will return to the lineup Monday after missing a game because of a bruised left thigh.

Cleveland hosts Sacramento on Monday night.

Love sat out for the first time this season on Saturday in a win over New Orleans. He was injured in the third quarter of Friday’s loss to Boston and didn’t return.

He is averaging 15.9 points and 10.5 rebounds.

Love participated in Monday’s shootaround. He is nearing a pair of career milestones, needing three points to reach 9,000 and three field goals to hit 3,000.

Report: Luke Walton not leaving Warriors before their season ends

CLEVELAND, OH - JANUARY 18: Interim Head coach Luke Walton of the Golden State Warriors during the first half against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena on January 18, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory copyright notice. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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Luke Walton is going to have his pick of coaching jobs this summer. The Knicks are reportedly interested, as are the Phoenix Suns. The Lakers allegedly would fire Byron Scott mid-season to get Walton. This doesn’t even get into current or expected openings such as Brooklyn, Sacramento, and Houston. Walton will have options.

But he’s not doing anything until the Warrior’s season ends, reports Marc Stein of ESPN.

This shouldn’t be a surprise, and it is the right thing to do for Walton — shows of loyalty to your current employer and players should raise his stock in the eyes of those trying to hire him.

We may ultimately see with Walton what we saw with Alvin Gentry a year ago; he took the job with New Orleans while the Warriors were still on their championship run, but continued to coach the team through the Finals.

It’s fair to ask if Walton is being over-hyped. He did a fantastic job with the Warriors to start this season, but that was an already built team playing the same system with mostly the same players as the season before. He just had to not fall off the horse, it was going to run plenty fast. Coaching up the kinds of troubled teams we see on that list above is a different challenge entirely. Walton may be up for it, he’s certainly earned the chance, but it’s fair to ask if he’s ready for that step.

PBT Podcast: Derek Fisher fired, plus your trade questions from Twitter

Derek Fisher
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Derek Fisher is out as coach of the New York Knicks.

In this latest podcast, NBC Sports’ Kurt Helin and Dan Feldman discuss the odd timing of that move — we expect another shoe to drop as to why. It’s not that Fisher was a great coach, but replacing him with Kurt Rambis mid-season is not an upgrade. And Luke Walton isn’t available until this summer.

After struggling to figure out what the Knicks are thinking, Helin and Feldman answer questions off Twitter from readers/listeners on the coming trade deadline including discussions of Blake Griffin, Jeff Teague, the Pistons, the Jazz, the Knicks, and more.

As always, you can listen to the podcast below, or listen and subscribe via iTunesdownload it directly here, or you can check out our new PBT Podcast homepage, which has the most recent episodes available. If you have the Stitcher app, you can listen there as well.

Warriors’ center Festus Ezeli has knee surgery, out at least six weeks

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UPDATE: 7:29 ET: The Warriors finally made an official announcement about Festus Ezeli‘s knee surgery Monday, and it looks like he will be back this season and in time for the playoffs. If rehab goes well. Which is very good news if you’re a Warriors’ fan.

5:14 ET: Festus Ezeli has been a rock-solid backup for the Warriors this season, playing almost 18 minutes a night behind Andrew Bogut giving the team 7.5 points and 5.9 rebounds a contest. Golden State’s defense is 3.6 points per 100 possessions better when he is on the court, and he’s part of the team’s long-term plans.

But he’s going to be out for a while now following knee surgery, the team announced and as reported by Monte Poole at CSNBayArea.com.

http://www.csnbayarea.com/warriors/festus-ezeli-undergo-knee-surgery

The surgery is exploratory, which is why the Warriors say there is no timeline for recovery yet.

The surgery is on his left knee; it was his right one that had reconstructive surgery and forced him to miss all of two seasons ago.

This is a blow to the Warriors’ depth, but little has slowed their march this season. More Mo Speights is not ideal, but the Warriors can just go small more often and run teams out of the building that way.

Ezeli is a restricted free agent this summer and the Warriors would like to keep him on the roster and expand his role, particularly if they do not retain Andrew Bogut. The severity of this knee injury could impact Ezeli’s ability to earn a big contract this summer, but hopefully for him, it’s not that serious.