There were some big basketball games yesterday to digest, and we’ll start with the Boston Celtics.

Remember just a couple years ago, the NBA Western Conference was considered much stronger than East. That changed last season with Boston winning the title. And it doesn’t appear that it will change back this season.

The Celtics improved to 24-2 overall and 10-1 on the road with a hard-fought 88-85 win at Atlanta, with Kevin Garnett taking home Boston with 10 points in the fourth quarter for the Celtics’ 16th straight victory – and first after losing their games in Atlanta in the play-offs last season. The way these guys play defense, the Bulls’ record of 72 victories could be in jeopardy.

The Cleveland Cavaliers meanwhile beat down on the Minnesota Timberwolves 93-70 to move to 21-4. And LeBron James is making a strong game for All-Defensive Team this season. Talk about two teams going in different directions, Minnesota lost their 11th straight game, including the past six under new/old coach Kevin McHale.

Heading back to Europe, reigning Euroleague champions CKSA Moscow dropped their second game in Group D. While the first loss came by one point at AJ Milano, Moscow lost Wednesday night at home 82-78 against Real Madrid.

CSKA – under the watchful eye of Russian President Vladimir Putin (sitting courtside next to Russian international guard Ilona Kostin of CSKA’s women’s team) did welcome back JR Holden to the lineup, playing for the first time since breaking his pinkie. But Matjaz Smodis and Ramunas Siskauskas were unable to go for Moscow boss Ettore Messina. But Madrid broke off a chink of the CSKA armor of invincibility.

Elsewhere in the Euroleague, Barcelona showed that they are a very, very serious contender for the title, brushing aside Montepaschi Siena 87-61 at home to grab sole possession of first place in Group B at 7-1 while Siena and Panathinaikos are at 6-2. Barcelona – who have the best record in the competition this season so far – made 10 of 21 three-pointers (48%) while holding Montepaschi to just 35% shooting from the field in cruising to victory.

Sticking with European hoops but heading over to the ladies, the draw for the EuroLeague Women Round of 16 were announced. Here are the pairings for the best of three match-ups:
Bourges Basket vs. Gambrinus SIKA Brno
Umana Reyer Venezia vs. MiZo Pecs 2010
Halcon Avenida Salamanca vs. CSKA Moscow
MKB Euroleasing Sopron vs. Wisla CAN-PACK Krakow
UMMC Ekaterinburg vs. TEO Vilnius
Spartak Moscow Region – Vidnoje vs. ZVVZ USK Prague
Ros Casares Valencia vs. Maxima Broker Kosice
Fenerbahce SK vs. Lotos PKO BP Gdynia

The Bourges-Brno and Halcon-CSKA Moscow showdowns definitely look like the best ones.

And one final note, you have to love the idea of Vlade Divac being a candidate for the presidency of the Serbian Olympic Committee.

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