Celtics on Verge of Historic Turnaround


Celtics on Verge of Historic Turnaround

The Celtics are on the verge of even more franchise history, with an NBA mark just around the corner.

A victory against New Orleans tonight would give the Celts their 57th triumph, a 33-win improvement from last season's 24-58 dive. That would better the turnaround of the 1979-80 C's, who went from 29 wins the previous year to 61 after acquiring a certain L. Bird.

In addition, the Celtics need just five wins in their last 11 games to break the NBA-record 36-game improvement of the 1997-98 Spurs.

``It's nice,'' coach Doc Rivers said, ``but, again, all that gives us is something to talk about. Hopefully by the end of it, we'll be able to say more about what we've done than just this.''

It's interesting to note that the 1979-80 Celts lost in the Eastern Conference finals (4-1 to Philadelphia), and the 1997-98 Spurs fell in the West semis (4-1 to Utah).

And as was the case with San Antonio resting so-called ``injured'' players to get a better chance at Tim Duncan in '97, Rivers doesn't consider last year's Celts as bad as their record was.

``We had a lot of injuries,'' he said. ``And people forget that before the injuries we had won five in a row . . . Then that next game is when all those injuries started happening. I don't ever forget that.

``But having said that, almost none of those guys are here, so it's pretty much a completely different team. But I've always thought we were far better than what we were last year.''

And just to show that turnarounds are relative, the second biggest jump in Celtics history came when Rick Pitino's first team won 36 games after the franchise ebb 15-win season in 1996-97.

A win tonight would also give the Celts a victory against every team in the league this season.

``I was watching `SportsCenter' and one of the guys said that, and I said, `Oh, wow, that's cool,' '' Rivers said.

Rondo shouldn't sit long

Rajon Rondo didn't practice yesterday, but he doesn't expect his hamstring injury to keep him out tonight.

``He did something with his hamstring (Wednesday) night (against the Suns), and we didn't want to take a chance,'' Rivers said. ``I don't think it's anything bad. He should be fine by (tonight), but if he's not, we'll just go with someone else.''

Rondo said he just wanted to get some rest and treatment to be ready for Hornets star Chris Paul.

``I've got to bring my game and make him play some defense,'' he said.

Rivers agreed, saying of the 22-year-old Paul, ``He's special. What he's doing right now is really impressive for a point guard as young as he is. He's clearly dominating the league with his play, but it's not about him. That's what makes him so good. It's team play. He's dominating the game with team play. He's making plays for his teammates as much as he's making them for himself.'' . . .

A limited number of Celtics playoff tickets will go on sale Monday at 10 a.m. They will be sold in strips of 16 for all possible home games. Prices starts at $840 for the 16-game package.

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