Paul Pierce, Courtney Lee

Boston wins third straight because of their… offense? Yup.

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The Boston Celtics won their fourth straight game without Rajon Rondo — this one against a title contender from the West (well, contender unless you ask Charles Barkley) — because of their high-powered offense.

You read that right. The Celtics without Rondo and Jared Sullinger abused the fifth-best defense in the NBA this season on their way to a 106-104 win Sunday at home.

It’s not the kind of game that answers the Celtics long-term questions, but it is wins like this that makes sure they make the playoffs this season.

Boston really won this game in the second quarter, when they outscored the Clippers 26-10 to open a 19-point halftime lead. (A lead they almost squandered, but that’s another topic.) It was the Celtics bench that did it — it accounted for 19 of the Celtics points that quarter, led by Jason Terry with 6 (he finished the game with 13 and was a game high +17). The Clippers shot 22.2 percent for the quarter and had 8 turnovers in the 12 minutes, the second game in a row where their vaunted bench decided to take the second quarter off from scoring.

Boston’s bench outscored the Clippers 59-22, if you’re looking for one stat that describes what happened.

This is the second game of the Clippers Grammy road trip where their defense decided to take a game off, and once again it cost them. Boston scored 111.7 points per 100 possessions in this game, which is 11 points per 100 better than its season average. Boston was finding ways to score and the more athletic and longer Clipper front line wasn’t able to stop them.

Yet the Clippers chipped away and chipped away at the lead in the second half and they got it all the way down to a two-point game inside of a minute left. The Clippers shot 58.5 points in the second half and they were led by Eric Bledsoe who had 17 after halftime.

But with it tight, Paul Pierce hit a step-back three with less than three seconds left that was the dagger, on his way to finishing with 22 points. It was vintage Pierce right over a Matt Barnes contest.

Be careful reading too much into this game — both teams were without their star starting point guards. As good as Bledsoe has been, Chris Paul remains the best point guard in the game and Clippers miss what he can do. Boston, without Rondo, is not the same team on either end of the court.

But Boston is winning, which is what gritty veteran teams do. Boston is not going to roll over because of its injuries. And while they may not be a contender they are not going to be an easy playoff out for anyone.

Report: Carmelo Anthony tells Phil Jackson he wants to stay with Knicks

NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 12:  Carmelo Anthony #7 of the New York Knicks during a stop in play against the Chicago Bulls at Madison Square Garden on January 12, 2017 in New York City. 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  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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Phil Jackson asked Carmelo Anthony whether the star forward wanted to remain with the Knicks.

Apparently, what Anthony said publicly over and over and over and over and over was true.

Frank Isola of the New York Daily News:

This further proves Anthony’s loyalty to New York.

A trade could’ve sent him to a better team with a more-desirable boss and netted him a $10 million trade bonus. But Anthony enjoys living and playing in New York, even with the tumult – including Jackson – that follows.

Now, it’s on Jackson to improve the roster around Anthony, repair player-coach relations and create a culture where the starting point guard doesn’t go AWOL.

Report: In ‘far more contentious’ meeting, Phil Jackson asked Carmelo Anthony whether he wanted to stay with Knicks

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Carmelo Anthony finally got his desired meeting with Knicks president Phil Jackson.

Ramona Shelburne of ESPN:

At turn after turn after turn after turn after turn, Anthony has stated his loyalty to the Knicks. What has he done since to indicate he wants to leave New York?

Jackson, not Anthony, has fostered all this recent controversy.

Jackson built a crummy roster that faced a difficult path to the playoffs. Jackson used the code word “posse.”  Jackson publicly critiqued Anthony for being a ball hog. Jackson mouthpiece Charley Rosen wrote “Anthony has outlived his usefulness in New York.”

Anthony just wants to play basketball for a good team in the world’s biggest market – not work under a black cloud. Jackson is making it impossible for Anthony to get all his wishes, though.

So, the question falls to Anthony: Would he rather keep playing for the Knicks – and all that comes with it – or waive his no-trade clause to join another team?

For years, he has unequivocally answered that question publicly with devotion to New York. But the act of Jackson asking might invite a different response.

Draymond Green counters LeBron James: Warriors-Cavaliers is a rivalry

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LeBron James said Warriors-Cavaliers isn’t a rivalry.

After Golden State beat Cleveland last night, Draymond Green interrupted a reporter’s question in his urgency to disagree.

Green, via CSN Bay Area:

Yeah, I think it’s a rivalry. So, yeah. Just me, though.

It’s definitely fun, you know? A team that you beat, that’s beat you – it’s definitely fun. I think, if you look at the last two years and this year, we’ve been the top two teams in the league each year. So, I look at it as a rivalry, and it’s definitely a fun game to play in.

But I don’t really care if anyone else see the game the game the way I see it. I see it how I see it, and they can see it how they do. I don’t really care. It’s fun, though.

This is a competitive game, a fun game to play in. And regardless of Bron thinks this a rivalry or not, I know he wants to beat us – and we want to beat them. And that’s enough in itself.

Of course, Warriors-Cavaliers is a rivalry. Green and LeBron have personally fueled it.

Maybe Green was just trying to knock some sense into LeBron last night.

Rajon Rondo: You couldn’t name three players on 2015-16 Kings, but I led NBA in assists

SACRAMENTO, CA - MARCH 09:  Rajon Rondo #9 of the Sacramento Kings dribbles the ball against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Sleep Train Arena on March 9, 2016 in Sacramento, California. 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.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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Months into his first and only season with the Kings, Rajon Rondo declared himself to be the first veteran teammate ever respected by DeMarcus Cousins.

As he deals with new problems with the Bulls, Rondo is again trashing his former Sacramento teammates.

Rondo, via David Aldridge of NBA.com:

“It’s just, maybe, the personnel in this situation,” Rondo says in response. “I mean, last year — I hate to keep talking about last year — but you couldn’t name three people on my team, the Sacramento Kings, and I led the league in assists. You know? I don’t know. I believe so (that his skill set still has value), given the right personnel and the flow of the game.”

Rondo is right: Playing with Jimmy Butler and Dwyane Wade is not ideal, and his passing was an asset to the Kings.

He’s also proving his critics right: He’s too often a jerk.

Rondo has declined significantly overall, particularly on defense. His plus passing is barely enough to make him rotation-worthy. It’s not enough for teams cast aside his hardheadedness.

But is Rondo right that you can’t name three members of the 2015-16 Kings? Take this quiz to find out: