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Ball Don't Lie

The 10-man rotation, starring a tight squeeze atop the Atlantic Division

Dan Devine
Ball Don't Lie

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Could the Nets or even Celtics catch the Knicks? (Getty Images)

A look around the league and the Web that covers it. It's also important to note that the rotation order and starting nods aren't always listed in order of importance. That's for you, dear reader, to figure out.

C: CelticsHub. As it stands, five games separates the Atlantic Division-leading New York Knicks and the third-place Boston Celtics, with the trick-or-treat Brooklyn Nets nestled snugly in the middle at 2 1/2 games out of the top spot. With 19 games remaining for the Nets, 20 left for the Celtics and 22 left for the Knicks, there's not much time for the trailers to close the gap, but with the New York teams facing road-heavy schedules (including an especially daunting one for the Knicks, who now feature a stiff-kneed star in Carmelo Anthony and will be without Amar'e Stoudemire for the next six to eight weeks), is there a chance the Celtics could leapfrog their way to the Atlantic lead? Brian Robb takes a look at the remaining slates.

PF: The Dream Shake. OK, so we agree that the Houston Rockets "won," as these things go, the Feb. 20 trade that imported 2012 No. 5 overall pick Thomas Robinson from the Sacramento Kings. In the process, though, Rockets general manager Daryl Morey shipped out two power forwards — Patrick Patterson and Marcus Morris — who'd played nearly 2,400 minutes for coach Kevin McHale, forcing a major shakeup in the Rockets' big rotation. Matt Stephens takes a look at how that shakeup has shaken out for a Houston squad that's gone 5-4 since the deal and needs to get its house in order to stay afloat in the Western playoff race.

SF: ProBasketballTalk. After the Los Angeles Lakers' convincing 90-81 win over the Chicago Bulls on Sunday, much of the praise for L.A. centered on the defensive effort put forward by the Lakers as led by Dwight Howard (14 defensive rebounds, four blocks, a steal, plenty of activity and menace). But as Darius Soriano points out and breaks down, another big story was the way Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash and company exploited Carlos Boozer's pick-and-roll defense.

SG: The Classical. Sam Riches offers one of the better takes I've seen in a while on a player who could be the best free agent on the market, but one who's unlikely to draw much big-league interest, because "any team signing Delonte West is signing the sum of his mistakes and misfortunes just as surely as it is a well-rounded backcourt contributor."

PG: SLAM. The great Dave Zirin on what he believes are the real underpinnings of Billy Hunter's ouster at the National Basketball Player's Association — not nepotism or acts of dubious legality, but rather "the belief that the NBPA gave up too much in the last round of collective bargaining."

6th: HoopSpeak. Expanding on a point he made about at TrueHoop based on an interview Denver Nuggets head coach George Karl gave to Dan Patrick, Beckley Mason wonders why more NBA teams don't play fast. As I said on Twitter earlier today, I love the general idea — more possessions against unsettled defenses, especially for young teams that might not aways excel in more deliberate settings in which execution is paramount, sure seems like a recipe for better offensive production — but I think the relative lack of success that fast-paced teams (including Karl's) have had come playoff time puts up a barrier to acceptance for a lot of NBA heads. It'd be awesome to see how attitudes (and possession counts) might change if, say, the Nuggets or Houston Rockets did some serious damage this postseason.

7th: ClipperBlog. Speaking of the way pace changes during the postseason, one of the major problems that faced the Los Angeles Clippers during their second-round matchup with the San Antonio Spurs last spring was that when Gregg Popovich's squad shut down the Clips' transition game and found success icing Chris Paul's pick-and-rolls, they just didn't have enough options to reliably score in the half-court. How are they faring against good defenses on the same score this year? Seerat Sohi digs into L.A.'s recent half-court possessions against the Indiana Pacers' league-leading D to find out.

8th: SB Nation and Heat.com. A pair of good reads off the Miami Heat's big Sunday evening win over the Pacers — Mike Prada breaks down how Miami used smart, well-timed sleights, feints and cuts to get Indy's best-in-the-biz defense guessing, and Couper Moorhead details how Heat center Chris Bosh was repeatedly able to take advantage of the shot the Pacers are most comfortable with giving up.

9th: PistonPowered. After Greg Monroe blasted his Detroit Pistons teammates for "unacceptable" effort ("I don't know, maybe guys don't care") following their 32-point pasting at the hands of the Clippers on Sunday, Patrick Hayes takes the big man to task for his own lackadaisical performance ... especially on the defensive end, where Monroe was a huge reason why DeAndre Jordan was able to make Brandon Knight famous.

10th: Dancing with Noah and Eye on Basketball. And speaking of that dunk ... a pair of breakdowns of the immediate reactions of those watching DeAndre detonate Knight. Clearly, you weren't the only one whose mind was blown.

Got a link or tip for Ball Don't Lie? Give me a shout at devine (at) yahoo-inc.com, or follow me on Twitter.

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