Celtics Seek Record StartMuch has been written and said about how well the Lakers and Cavaliers have played so far this season but the team with the best record in the NBA is still none other than the 2008 NBA Champions, the Boston Celtics. A victory tonight in Washington over the struggling Wizards--a 10.5 point underdog according to BetUS.com sportsbook--would not only be Boston's ninth straight road win but would mark the best start to a season in the franchise's storied history, 21-2 (two other Boston teams began seasons with 20-2 records). The Celtics have won nine road games in a row and 13 straight games overall, Boston's longest winning streak since a 14 game run by the 1985-86 championship team.
Last season, the Celtics ranked first in point differential (10.2 ppg), first in defensive field goal percentage (.419), third in field goal percentage (.475), fourth in rebounding differential (3.1 rpg) and fifth in steals (8.49 spg). This season, despite a shaky--by their standards--8-2 start that included a 95-79 loss to the Pacers, the Celtics now rank third in point differential (9.2 ppg), first in defensive field goal percentage (.415, just ahead of the Cavaliers), fourth in field goal percentage (.473), fifth in rebounding differential (4.1 rpg) and fifth in steals (8.45 spg). In other words, their performance in several key categories is virtually identical to how they performed last year--and they obviously have proven that they can maintain such levels throughout an entire regular season and long playoff run.
The pecking order among the "Big Three" has shifted a little this season. Ray Allen leads the Celtics in scoring (19.2 ppg) while shooting .500 from the field, .393 from three point range and .922 from the free throw line. He is also averaging 3.6 rpg and 2.7 apg. Paul Pierce is scoring 18.2 ppg. His three point shooting (.356) and free throw shooting (.830) are good but his overall field goal percentage is a career-low .397. Pierce is averaging 6.0 rpg and 3.5 apg. Kevin Garnett is averaging 16.4 ppg while shooting .515 from the field and .815 from the free throw line. His rebounding (9.4 rpg), assists (2.4 apg) and shot blocking (1.4 bpg) are all below his career norms but some of that has to do with Boston's depth and balance. Last year, Allen averaged 17.4 ppg while shooting .445, .398 and .907, Pierce averaged 19.6 ppg while shooting .464, .392 and .843 and Garnett averaged 18.8 ppg while shooting .539 and .801.
It will be interesting to see how long the Celtics can extend their current winning streak. Their longest road trip so far this season was just three games, one of which was the Indiana loss. After the Washington game tonight, the Celtics play New Orleans at home tomorrow, host Utah on Monday, visit the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday and enjoy a three game homestand against teams that are currently sub-.500 (Chicago, New York, Philadelphia) before heading out West for a four game road trip during which they will play the Lakers on Christmas Day followed by visits to Golden State, Sacramento and Portland. The game versus the Lakers is probably the most highly anticipated contest of the first half of the season and will be an interesting measuring stick for both of last year's Finalists.
However, the Celtics should be careful not to look past the Wizards tonight. As anyone with even a casual familiarity with NBA betting surely knows, the Wizards beat the Celtics three out of four times last season. Washington also enjoys a four game home winning streak versus Boston.
posted by David Friedman @ 5:09 PM