Before the Celtics even played a game this season, Wallace stated last month to the Connecticut Post that he thought the Celtics could get the Bulls record. Bold? Yes. Off-base? No. Entering tonight's tilt in Philadelphia against the 76ers, the 4-0 Celtics are 1/18th of the way to 72 wins with a long, long, long, long way to go.
But it's obvious even this early that this version of the Green has a chance to be historically good -- even great. Through four games, the Celtics are averaging 100.5 points per game and allowing only 81.3. Opponents are shooting 39.1 percent from the floor against them. Six players are averaging nine points per game or more -- Paul Pierce (21.8), Ray Allen (17.8), Kevin Garnett (13.3), Rasheed Wallace (10.0), Kendrick Perkins (9.8) and Eddie House (9.0) -- and that doesn't include nouveau riche point guard Rajon Rondo, who has been content to pass up shots and dish out dimes. The 72-win Bulls had a Big Three of Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman. You had the greatest player of all-time, the most versatile player in the league at the time, and arguably the greatest pound for pound rebounder ever on the same team.Boston's Big Three can't match that, but the Celtics have three elements that Bulls team didn't have -- a deep bench with Wallace, Marquis Daniels, House and Shelden Williams, a true playmaking point guard in Rondo and a center who is not afraid of his own shadow and can get out of his own way in Kendrick Perkins.
Injuries aside, the biggest impediment to running with the 95-96 Bulls is the schedule. Ten losses doesn't leave much margin for error. The Celtics opened the season by downing the LeBrons in Cleveland, but they still have three more games with King James. They have four games with Orlando, the first of which is Nov. 20 at TD Garden, when the Celtics could be 12-0. The Eastern Conference foes play Christmas Day in Orlando, which will be good for Celtics coach Doc Rivers from a personal standpoint, if not a professional one.
Boston plays the defending NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers on Jan. 31 at home and in LA on Feb. 18. They're at San Antonio on Dec. 3 and host the Spurs on March 28. There are road games on back-to-back nights in the Lone Star State against Houston and Dallas in March. The feisty Atlanta Hawks always get up for their games with the Celtics and the teams renew their rivalry next Friday. They play an ESPN game on Jan. 8 in Atlanta and then play at the Garden again three days later. In the ultimate look-ahead game, the Celtics play the Hawks on the road two days before they come home to face the Lakers for the first time.
Those are 17 tough games for the 17-time NBA champions, but going 8-9 or 9-8, still leaves room to catch the Bulls.
This is a good analysis. Really, it is. Where it fails is by omitting the possibility of losing games to bad teams like almost happened on Wednesday. The Boston Celtics won 66 games two years ago, three of those losses coming in a row right after the All-Star break. All three losses were to bad teams. No biggie, of course. The Celtics were still on break. Now we're two years older. Can we really expect to avoid such pot-holes this time around?
Regardless, Doc and Danny both are downplaying the quest to win 70, and this makes me happy.
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