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By Ian Parfrey – BrooklynFans.com Contributor - @Ianparfrey 

Miami forward Mike Miller's greatest accomplishment this season? Getting his sideburns and goatee to finally connect.(Getty Images)

This week in the Eastern Conference, we’re slowly gearing up to the 5-game, 13-hour Christmas TV marathon (including Celtics-Nets and Knicks-Lakers), as well as the thrilling drama of Andrew Bynum’s next doctor’s appointment.  The Knicks and the Heat have separated themselves from the pack a little, and the teams in the middle continue to slug it out.  Even the Raptors have won two in a row, after Andrea Bargnani called them “the worst team in the league.”

  1. New York Knicks (18-5, 3-0 last week)
  2. Miami Heat (15-6, 2-1 last week)
  3. Atlanta Hawks (14-7, 2-2 last week)
  4. Chicago Bulls (13-9, 2-1 last week)
  5. Brooklyn Nets (13-10, 2-2 last week)
  6. Milwaukee Bucks (12-10, 2-1 last week)
  7. Indiana Pacers (13-11, 3-0 last week)
  8. Boston Celtics (12-11, 1-2 last week)

Notes by team

Atlanta: Forward Josh Smith scored 3 points on 1-12 FG in the Hawks’ loss to Golden State Saturday night.  Smith had scored 16 points or more in 9 straight games.  The Hawks play 4 games in 5 nights next week, starting Tuesday in Washington.

 

Boston:  The Celtics needed two overtimes to beat the Mavericks Wednesday night, and then lost on the road in Houston and San Antonio.  Courtney Lee has replaced Jason Terry in the starting lineup, and Terry has returned to his more familiar sixth man role.

Joe Johnson shoots down the Pistons last Friday night. (REUTERS)

Brooklyn: Thanks to late heroics from Joe Johnson, the Nets beat Detroit in double OT Friday night.  Johnson had 28 points, including three big shots in the overtime periods, and a long two at the buzzer for the win.  Brook Lopez returned Friday after missing 7 games with a sprained foot.  The Nets played 4 games in 5 nights this week, beating the Raptors and Pistons, while losing to the Knicks and Bulls.

Charlotte:  The Bobcats have lost eleven in a row after a 7-5 start.  They’re about to embark on a 4-game road trip against Western Conference teams, and then they come home to face the Heat.

 

Chicago:  The Bulls continue to win with their defense, holding the Nets without a field goal for almost six minutes in the fourth quarter Saturday night.  Guard Marco Belinelli has averaged 19 points over his last 6 games, subbing for Richard Hamilton (foot).

The Cavaliers have two good players. One of them is the Phantom of the Opera. (Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)

ClevelandKyrie Irving (pictured) returned last Monday after missing 11 games with a broken finger on his non-shooting hand.  The unlucky Irving proceeded to break a bone in his face Friday night, and then dropped 41 points in a loss to the Knicks on Saturday.  C.J. Miles has started the last 4 games at shooting guard, and is averaging 22.5 points and 4.3 threes in that span.

Indiana:  The Pacers have won 9 of their last 13 games.  Their defense allows a league-best 91 points per game on 41% shooting.  The second-best defense in FG% allowed?  Whoever’s playing the Pacers.

Miami:  The Heat lost to the surprising Golden State Warriors Wednesday night, on a last-second layup by rookie Draymond Green, and still seem to be on cruise control.  They did turn it up for easy wins over the division rival Hawks, and the perennial-doormat Wizards.

 

Milwaukee: The Bucks were blown out at home by the Clippers Saturday night.  Leading scorers Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings managed only 22 points on 7-27 FG, combined.

New York: The Knicks have won 9 of their last 10.  Carmelo Anthony scored 30 points in 23 minutes against the Lakers Thursday night before leaving the game with a sprained ankle.  He sat out Saturday’s win over the Cavaliers, as Chris Copeland got his first career start.

Philadelphia: Leading scorer Jrue Holiday is out with a sprained foot, and Nick Young is starting in his place.  More information on Andrew Bynum (knees) is expected next week.  The Sixers have lost 6 of their last 8, and are 2-7 against teams ahead of them in the conference standings.

This week’s big games:

Tuesday, Dec. 18– Celtics @ Bulls

Tuesday, Dec. 18– Bucks @ Pacers

Wednesday, Dec. 19– NETS @ KNICKS (7pm, ESPN)

Friday, Dec. 21– Bucks @ Celtics

Friday, Dec. 21– Bulls @ KNICKS (7:30pm, MSG)

Saturday, Dec. 22– Bulls @ Hawks

Games not to watch:  The Pistons-Wizards home and away series Friday and Saturday.  Jordan Crawford!  Greg Monroe!

 

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