The Boston Celtics currently sit atop the Eastern Conference, having played more games than any other team in the NBA. With nine victories from 11 starts, Boston has thus far won two more games than the hapless Washington Wizards have even played. No other team has played more games to this point in the season.
The Celtics have already survived the toughest part of their regular season schedule. Boston has just finished playing 8 games in 12 nights, a series that veteran Ray Allen said was the “toughest stretch” he has ever endured in his 14-year NBA career.
How did the Celtics fare?
On paper they did reasonably well by winning 7 of those 8 contests, including victories over some of their strongest rivals in the East including the Pistons, the Raptors, and the previously undefeated Hawks.
In each of those games, however, the starting unit for the Celtics showed serious signs of rust during the first quarters, allowing their opponents to jump out to early double-digit leads. It was the second unit, led by Tony Allen, Eddie House, Leon Powe, and Glen Davis, that often closed the gap and set the stage for the rested starters to finish things off in the second half.
Rather than seeing this as a sign of weakness, the rest of the league should be very concerned. Unlike last season, when the starting unit played big minutes together in the pre-season in order to adjust to each other’s games, the ‘Big Three’ saw very little playing time before this season actually began. They are rusty because they have not played competitive basketball since the NBA Finals.
Now, with the hardest part of their schedule behind them and a Conference-leading record to boot, the Celtics starters will have greater opportunities to rest and practice between games. Any lingering rust will be worked out, and the starting unit will soon find its groove again. Watch out, because the Green Machine will soon be running on all cylinders again.