|12.23.08 at 9:29 pm ET|
What do you get for winning 19 straight games? Do you get a car, Paul Pierce asked. No, you don’t get a car, but you do get a place in the Celtics record book as the team with the longest winning streak in the history of the franchise, and that will have to suffice because for the 19th straight game everyone dismissed the streak as a happy accident of a team trying to get better.
OK, so what can we take from last night’s 110-91 win over Philly?
1. The bench, make that the much-maligned bench, was terrific. Doc Rivers credited the second unit with changing the energy in the second quarter, and it’s worth noting that Rivers played five reserves at once with Gabe Pruitt getting some action with Brian Scalabrine in addition to the usuals: Leon Powe, Eddie House and Tony Allen.
In the fourth quarter, the bench expanded the lead and allowed Rivers to keep the starters off the floor for the duration. Powe was a monster with 15 points and 10 rebounds and House knocked down three 3-pointers. Pruitt also had a sweet dish to Powe and got into it with 6-10 rookie Marreese Speights.
2. Kevin Garnett took 13 shots, which is about right for him. But here’s the interesting part. Those 13 shots were the highest individual total on the team. Rajon Rondo took 12, Pierce and House took 11 shots. When the Celtics are the balanced they are also very efficient. See Ray Allen who scored 16 points on just eight shots.
On Friday, they had 40 assists against Chicago. On Sunday they had 33 against the Knicks. Last night they had 27 assists on 37 made shots. High school teams in Indiana in the 1950′s don’t share the ball that well.
3. One reason why the Celtics aren’t throwing themselves a party for their winning streak is the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Cavs knocked off the Rockets last night and now stand at 24-4. To put it another way the Cavs are just 2.5 games behind the Celtics in the race for the best record in the Eastern Conference.
The Celtics believe homecourt advantage was the single biggest reason they won the championship last year and they are determined to have it again this year. Compare that to the attitude of the Pistons the last five years, which was: We know how to win in April, May and June so who cares about December?
And when they got to May and June they suddenly forgot how to win.
4. Remember when the Celtics couldn’t shoot free throws? They were 29-for-34 last night and they have raised their percentage above 75 percent.
5. This was not a vintage defensive performance by the Celtics. Philly shot 48 percent from the floor, but even then the Celtics defense is good enough to completely take things away. Witness the 3-point arc, where the Sixers launched 11 shots and made exactly zero shots. That doesn’t get you a car either.