Associated Press

Three things we learned Wednesday: Pistons beat Celtics, winning games, about to get healthy

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Just a word of advice to our readers: This holiday season designate a driver, call a cab or Uber/Lyft, but don’t drink and drive. For a lot of good reasons. Including avoiding having to listen to Nickelback. Now, on to what we learned Wednesday around the NBA.

1) Pistons beat Celtics, finding ways to keep head above water as Reggie Jackson’s return nears. The Detroit Pistons played some of their best basketball of the season Wednesday night. A bottom-10 team in assisted shots, the Pistons moved better off the ball and found the open man more often. It all started with Ish Smith at the point, who has had a couple nice games in a row and Wednesday was pushing the pace, was curling off picks beautifully, and hit 75 percent of his shots to finish with 19 points, eight assists and eight rebounds.

Also, the Pistons just hit shots — Boston dared Detroit to shoot from the midrange, and the Pistons took advantage and knocked down the looks. Shot charts don’t get much better than this.

Pistons shotchart

Here is why wins like this really matter for Detroit: The Pistons are still without Reggie Jackson, their star point guard and the catalyst for their offense (he has a strong pick-and-roll chemistry with Andre Drummond). Jackson had knee and thumb issues (he got PRP treatments for both before the season) but has been back at practice recently and should be cleared for a return soon. At the time it was announced he would miss the first month or so of the season, we said the Pistons just needed to keep their heads above water until his return. With the win over Boston Tuesday Detroit is 10-10 and tied for one of the final playoff slots in the East. They did more than just survive, they put themselves in a good position, once Jackson gets back and is settled (conditioning may take a little bit) this team will be poised to make a run up the East standings.

2) Russell Westbrook gets fourth straight triple-double, earns Thunder an overtime win. Russell Westbrook is very good at this basketball thing. After that, we’re kind of running out of superlatives for the guy, who continues to put up numbers at a historic pace every night, including another triple-double of 35 points, 14 rebounds, and 11 assists Wednesday.

But it’s not just the raw numbers, it’s he is lifting this team to wins — everyone in the state of Oklahoma knew Westbrook was going to get the ball and would be hunting or a three to force overtime late Wednesday against the Wizards, and yet he still made the play.

The Thunder are now 12-8 and look like a solid playoff team in the West. And that’s all about an above-average defense and a whole lot of Westbrook carrying the offense.

3) Kings/Sixers postponement leads to Boogie moping, Tweet of the season from Joel Embiid. Good on the Sixers, the Wells Fargo Center, and the NBA for not trying to force a game to be played on an unsafe floor. Blame the Flyers, the building, nature, Trump, whoever you want it doesn’t matter, the NBA couldn’t play in these conditions. No date has been scheduled for a makeup yet, by the way, but expect early January.

The situation did let the two star big men from the game be comedians.

First, there was DeMarcus Cousins doing some serious, two-handed mopping.

Then there was what might be the Tweet of the season from Joel Embiid.

Chicago does humor with “Beauty and the Bull” snapchat musical

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The Beauty and the Beast movie is both a hit and ripe for satire. Or just amusing spinoffs.

Enter the Chicago Bulls, with Benny the Bull mascot and Robin Lopez pitching in on a musical takeoff of the film promoting the team.

Well played Bulls.

LeBron James drives through Wizards defense, dunks on

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Even when they are getting beat — and the Cavaliers have some issues to shake out before the playoffs start — there are a couple times a game that LeBron James makes a play that is stunning.

For example, splitting defenders out high with his dribble then going in and dunking on Ian Mahinmi. LeBron did that Saturday night.

The Wizards beat the Cavaliers and Cleveland has issues that are bigger than LeBron’s goggles (Boston can tie Cleveland for the top spot in the East with a win Sunday), but never doubt LeBron’s explosiveness.

Raptors’ Patrick Patterson taunts Mavericks’ bench after three, Rick Carlisle talks back (VIDEO)

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Toronto handed Dallas its 41st loss of the season Saturday night, which means with the Mavericks’ next loss their streak of winning seasons will come to an end at 16.

Toronto was talking a lot of smack while getting that win. At least Patrick Patterson was when he was draining corner threes in front of the Mavericks’ bench. On the one above, Patterson chirps and coach Rick Carlisle goes back at him verbally. They both pick up technical fouls for their trouble.

I’m surprised this doesn’t happen a little more during games, there’s a lot of talking down there

Serge Ibaka, DeMar DeRozan lead Raptors past Mavericks, 94-86

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DALLAS (AP) — DeMar DeRozan and Serge Ibaka scored 18 points apiece, and the Toronto Raptors clinched a playoff berth after their fifth straight victory, 94-86 over the Dallas Mavericks on Saturday night.

The Raptors, who came back from 15-point deficits to win each of their last two games, made it a little easier on themselves Saturday. Toronto scored the game’s first seven points and never trailed in dealing the Mavericks’ playoff hopes a damaging blow.

Harrison Barnes scored 23 points for Dallas, which missed 18 of its first 22 3-pointers and finished just 7 of 28 from behind the arc.

Patrick Patterson added 14 points for Toronto, including a perfect 4 for 4 on 3-pointers.

The Mavericks fell four games behind Denver for the final playoff spot in the West.

Toronto led by as many as 16 points in the first half and by 15 early in the fourth quarter before a 10-0 Dallas run made things more interesting.

Dorian Finney-Smith‘s free throws with 7:57 to go brought the Mavs within 79-74, the closest they had been since 7-2 early in the game. But Ibaka made consecutive jumpers to restore a nine-point lead, and Dallas got no closer than six after that.

The Raptors had their biggest lead at 42-26 in the first half. Barnes scored Dallas’ last 11 points of the half to help cut into the lead, but Toronto led 54-44 at the break.

J.J. Barea‘s long 3 at the third-quarter buzzer again brought Dallas within 10 at 74-64.

TIP-INS

Raptors: Coach Dwane Casey said he was hopeful that guard Kyle Lowry would return from wrist surgery before the end of the regular season. “I know he’s doing a lot of conditioning, a lot of work to keep his body in shape,” Casey said. “Just let him rehab, let him do his thing and trust our medical people.” Lowry has missed the last 16 games. . Toronto was also without starting forward DeMarre Carroll due to a sore lower back. P.J. Tucker started in his place.

Mavericks: Seth Curry with 11 points and Yogi Ferrell with 10 were the only other Mavs in double figures. . Nerlens Noel started his second game in a row at center for the Mavericks, who have gone to a big lineup. They’ve moved Dirk Nowitzki to power forward, Barnes to small forward and Curry to point guard.

STREAK IN JEOPARDY

The Mavericks took their 41st loss of the season. Their next loss will end the NBA’s second-longest streak of .500 or better seasons – currently at 16 seasons. Their last sub-.500 season was 1999-00, when they finished 40-42 and Mark Cuban became owner of the team in January 2000.

San Antonio has the longest streak of .500 or better seasons with 20, including this season.

ABOUT THURSDAY NIGHT

Cuban couldn’t resist giving his opinion on Barea’s ejection from the Mavericks’ victory over the Clippers on Thursday night. Barea was called for a flagrant 2 foul for pushing Blake Griffin, a player with a 10-inch height advantage over Barea.

“I just feel bad for Blake,” Cuban said. “It’s hard to come back from a knockout like that. We sent flowers to his family, condolences. I can only guess that he’s going to be drinking through a straw for a long, long time.”