Like Magic, Boston suffers first loss

November 20, 2007 4:51 AM

1-2 3-3 50.0

It took nearly three weeks but the NBA’s last unbeaten team has fallen.

Orlando edged Boston at home on Sunday 104-102 to end the Celtics perfect 8-0 start to the season. With that win the Magic improved their own record to 9-2 and remain one of the pleasant early season stories. The same can be said for the New Orleans Hornets, also off to a 9-2 start.

Three other teams also have lost just twice in the young season and each is among the NBA’s elite — San Antonio, Dallas and Phoenix.

Golden State and Minnesota each got their initial wins of the season within the last week so all 30 teams have now had at least a taste of both victory and defeat.

Boston has been a nice story in several ways. The off season acquisition of Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett to compliment Paul Pierce raised questions about how the three would relate to one another and what impact their presence would have at the defensive end of the court. In starting 8-1 the Celtics have held seven of their nine foes to below 100 points. The 104 allowed to Orlando in that first loss was the most allowed to any foe.

Just 10 percent of the season has been played. If coach Doc Rivers can continue to have the Celtics play at both ends of the court as they have thus far, it might not be a stretch to include the Celtics as a team not only capable of winning the Eastern Conference but having a chance to win it all. Unlikely perhaps, but 2007 has already been a year of unusual occurrences throughout the sports world.

Chicago and Miami remain the biggest disappointments of the early season. At least Miami can point to the two week absence of star Dwyane Wade as a reason for their 2-8 start. For the most part the 2-7 Bulls have been healthy. The talk of a trade involving Kobe Bryant to the Bulls has faded so the Bulls can’t use that distraction any more as an excuse.

There is balance on the Bulls and we can expect things to turn around in the near term. But because of public perception Chicago should still be a poor point spread play until they start winning on the court.

Yours truly learned that the hard way this past weekend when the Bulls failed to carry over momentum from Saturday night’s win over the Clippers with a blowout loss to the Lakers the next night. Never too old or experienced to re-learn old lessons!

Here’s a look at three games to be played over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.

Lakers at Celtics (Fri): The rivalry that dominated the ’60s and the ’80s is again renewed with both teams off to winning starts this season. In their two meetings last season the Lakers won twice by double digits. This is a much stronger Boston team and this will be reflected in the spread. Boston is the deeper team and is likely to use this game as a measure of how much progress has been made by facing a good, but not elite, team from the better Western Conference. This is only their third game against a team from the West. Earlier this month, the Celtics routed Denver at home and just hosted weak Golden State on Wednesday. CELTICS.

Heat at Magic (Sat): Surprisingly, Orlando swept the four game series last season. Three of the wins were by 14 or more points. With Wade back for the Heat, Miami should begin rapidly to improve upon a 2-8 start. The Heat should be solid underdogs as both teams played on Friday but the Magic were at home and thus did not have to travel. Miami coach Pat Riley has always had his teams well prepared and will use this as a key early season game for his team. HEAT.

Jazz at Pistons (Sun): Both teams have started the season with decently, though sporting unspectacular records. Detroit’s early season performance does suggest they are down from last season, although they did play eight of their first 10 games on the road. Utah’s recent road trip East saw them struggle on offense in losing two of three. This is only their second game since Monday and that freshness should enable them to compete well against a Pistons team they defeated in both meetings last season. Both were close, decided by just 1 and 2 respectively. The Jazz should be getting at least a couple of buckets here. JAZZ.