Celtics expecting happy new year

The Boston Celtics will hit the new year with the NBA's best record and a belief that more is still to come.
"We haven't played our best basketball and I think most of the guys in this locker room will say that," veteran guard Ray Allen said recently after his team's home victory over the Orlando Magic.
Allen was right. The rejuvenated Celtics hit the road for a four-game Western swing in the five nights leading to the New Year determined to do much more.
The Celtics have recorded wins against Sacramento and Seattle to raise their record to 24-3 with Utah and the Los Angeles Lakers still to come.
"We're going to be so much better," said Boston coach Doc Rivers. "We have a chance to be, if we keep working on it, so much better than we are right now."
Those are scary words when you consider the record which included only one loss at home, a last-second decision to the Detroit Pistons on December 19.
"We want to get to the point where we are perfect," said forward Paul Pierce. "We strive for perfection if we have that type of attitude going into the game.
"You know we aren't going to be perfect, but we can be close to it and that's the type of level we want to get to. Everybody has that mentality. We're never going to be satisfied.
"It's still early in the season. We still have a long way to go and we just keep challenging ourselves each and every day."
Garnett key
The man doing much of the challenging is newly acquired 10-time All Star Kevin Garnett.
The fortunes of this once-proud franchise changed in four days over the summer, when Boston acquired Allen from Seattle and Garnett from Minnesota. A total of 10 players/draft picks went to those two teams (one other came back), and the Celtics were re-born.
In the glory years in the 1980s, Boston was led by its 'Big Three' of Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish. Now, with the help of McHale, the Minnesota general manager who sent Garnett to Boston, there is a new 'Big Three' - Garnett, Pierce and Allen.
There was no official nickname for the new trio, one suggestion calling them the "Boston Three Party," a play on words on the 1773 Boston Tea Party one of the incidents which led to the Revolutionary War.
Garnett, freed from years of obscurity in Minnesota, is the leader.
In addition to averaging 18.9 points and 10.5 rebounds per game (Pierce was at 21.1 points, Allen 19.0), he was also getting shots for other people (3.6 assists) and leading the charge on the defensive end.
"I feel like if we play defense every single night we give ourselves a chance to win every single night," Garnett said. "We hold each other accountable for our defensive effort."
Rivers says Garnett is like having another coach.
"It's not just his energy and attitude," Rivers said. "It's his focus that he enforces on everyone else. If someone misses a rotation, he beats me to the punch and that's nice."
Answering challenges
One of the three Boston losses in the first 25 games came in Orlando on November 18.
When the teams met again five weeks later in Boston, Garnett said: "You could see it the minute you came into the locker room" things would be different. Boston won 103-91 with four players - 'The Three Party' and young Rajon Rondo - all scoring at least 20 points.
The Celtics evened the score with the Cleveland Cavaliers, who beat them in overtime last month, with a December 2 win, but that came with Cavs star LeBron James injured. They get another shot at the Pistons, still regarded as the team to beat in the Eastern Conference, on January 5.
"We want to continue at this pace in the 25-game segments," said Allen. "The next 25 games we want to do somewhat of the same stuff that we're doing now, so it's not a moment to sit back and reflect just yet."

Updated : 2021-02-26 03:17 GMT+08:00