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Superlatives continue for Celts after beating Pistons

Jan 8, 2008 6:10 AM
1-2 11-16 40.7

There continue to be far too few superlatives to describe the play of the Boston Celtics two-fifths through the regular season.

At 29-3, Boston is on a record setting pace and answered yet another question over this past weekend when winning at Detroit 92-85, exacting revenge for one of its three losses.

The trio of Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce are more than living up to even the highest of preseason expectations from the most loyal of fans. They are getting help from what was thought to be a very short bench and the team is playing outstanding defense. Through Sunday, Boston was allowing a league low 87.2 points per game, more than two per game less than Detroit.

Boston still has yet to face Phoenix, Dallas or defending champion San Antonio, but own a 10-0 record against teams from the West, including a sweep of the 21-11 Los Angeles Lakers and home wins over Northwest Division leading Denver.

Critics will continue to argue that the quality of play in the East is far below that of the West and to a large extent that is true. But keep in mind that two of the last four NBA champions came from the East (Miami and Detroit) and both were in an era in which the Western Conference dominated the Eastern Conference.

Health is always an issue in all sports. If the Celtics trio remains relatively healthy, we could see yet another huge sports story emerge from the northeastern part of the country. First, the Boston Red Sox win a second World Series in four years following 86 years of frustration. Then the New England Patriots complete the first perfect regular season in more than a third of a century — and the first in a 16-game season. They are heavily favored to make it 19-0, capped by a fourth Super Bowl trophy in seven seasons. Now here come the Celtics.

As a long time New Yorker, the current run of success a couple of hundred miles north on I-95 recalls memories when New York was the center of the professional sports world in 1969/1970 when the Jets, Mets and Knicks all won titles in a 15-month period.

Speaking of the Knicks, their title success seems as though it occurred 300 years ago, much less three decades back. They remain one of the sorriest franchises in the NBA over the past several seasons and their 8-26 record is rivaling Miami for worst in the East. It’s amazing how Isiah Thomas, one of the league’s all-time best players, remains as coach of one of the NBA’s crown jewel franchises. Their average scoring margin is minus 8.2 points per game, second only to Minnesota for the league’s worst.

Through last Sunday home teams were winning 57 percent of all games but covering just below 48 percent. Home underdogs, long a source of betting, are just 73-82-3 ATS (47 percent).

UNDERs have extended their margin versus OVERs through nearly 500 games as there have been 231 OVERs, 260 UNDERs and 6 pushes to date.

Here’s a look at three games to be played this weekend.

Celtics at Nets (Fri): By winning 7 of their last 10 games New Jersey has climbed above the .500 mark into second place behind Boston in the Atlantic Division. That’s second place and a full 12½ games behind. The Nets have their own trio of All Star caliber players with Richard Jefferson, Vince Carter and Jason Kidd combining to average nearly 58 points per game, almost exactly what the Celtics star-studded trio is averaging.

Boston won the first two meetings this season, by 11 and 22 points. Both games were played four days apart in early November. The Nets are playing better than at the time of their earlier meetings and might be small home underdogs here. They have the talent to compete with Boston and should be motivated to show the Celtics they are better than the team that lost twice by double digits as the season was dawning.

Magic at Jazz (Sat): Orlando has been very steady this season and at 22-13 continued to lead the Southeast Division. Led by Dwight Howard and an unheralded supporting cast that includes Hedo Turkoglu and Rashard Lewis, the Magic’s early-season performance has been overshadowed in the East by the play of Boston. Utah started the season 13-5 but has lost 12 of 17 since to stand at 18-17. The Jazz are in third place in the Northwest Division and currently out of the playoffs.

Utah is a typical NBA team that plays far better at home (12-3) than on the road (6-14). Orlando is just 7-8 at home, but an NBA second-best 15-5 on the road! Utah is rested off a road game on Thursday at Phoenix. Orlando made the quick trip from Denver after facing the Nuggets on Friday night. Utah won the earlier meeting in Orlando last month, 113-94. The situation suggests Utah will be a solid favorite but don’t be surprised if Orlando pulls the outright upset.

Pacers at Warriors (Sun): Golden State started the season 0-6 but has rallied back to stand at 19-15, good enough for the eighth seed in the West. Indiana has a losing record but trails eight seeded Atlanta by just one game in the East. The Pacers and Warriors made a huge trade last season that propelled Golden State into the playoffs where they upset top seeded Dallas before being eliminated.

The Pacers missed the playoffs last season as they began the rebuilding process. Clearly there is familiarity with both team’s personnel and this game should be a played at a fast pace. Both games last season went OVER the Total and expect a similar result here.