With the Boston Celtics' 14th consecutive win Friday night against the New Orleans Hornets, they have done something that no other Celtic team has ever done. They have started out the season 22-2. For a franchise that has pretty much invented history in the NBA, it's pretty amazing this is the first time that's ever happened.
I thought about it for a second and really didn’t believe it at first. All the great Celtic teams from the '50s, '60s, '70s and '80s, and none of them ever started a season 22-2? It’s really unbelievable to think that teams led by Bob Cousey, Bill Russell, John Havlicek, Tom Heinsohn, Dave Cowens, Larry Bird, and Kevin McHale never had a better start to the season then this current Celtic team.
I know a lot of people will argue that the talent in the NBA nowadays is a little thinner than back in those days, which may be true, but being able to win 22 out of your first 24 games is pretty impressive no matter how great the opposing talent may be. This is still the NBA, and most of the teams in this league will still challenge you night in and night out.
Then my thoughts of how great of an accomplishment this is, and how this team has made history for an already storied franchise, started to turn to something else. Could this Celtic team win 73 games and break the record for the best single season ever, currently held by the 1995-'96 Chicago Bulls?
The Bulls started out that season 23-2 before losing their third game of the season. Even more impressive, they then reeled off 16 straight wins to go 39-3 through January.
If the Celtics can get through January, which will include tough away games against the Los Angeles Lakers (Dec.25 – 5 PM), the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Detroit Pistons, and the Atlanta Hawks (who just ended the Cavs’ 11 game winning streak) and home games against the Houston Rockets, the Phoenix Suns, and the Dallas Mavericks, with only three or four losses, they will have a legit shot at re-writing the NBA record books.
There will be three keys to the Celtics winning more games than any other team in NBA history, including their own 1985-86 team, which won 67 games.
The first, and most obvious, is staying healthy. If any of the “Big Three” miss games due to injury, it will be awfully tough for this team to win any games, let alone 73.
Second, the bench will need to keep playing like they have been. That '95-'96 Bulls team had a great starting five, but their bench included Ron Harper and Toni Kukoc, who won the Sixth Man Award that year.
Last, but definitely not least, is defense. The reason the Celtics won the championship last year was because of their defense. This team feeds off of it. When they can shut a great offensive team down, their own offense thrives. It opens up the fast break and allows guys like Ray Allen, who leads the team in scoring through 24 games, open three pointers.
The Bulls had three guys on the First Team, All-Defensive Team (Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, and Dennis Rodman). It may have also helped a little that they had the best basketball player on the planet, and the league leader in rebounds per game that year.
I’m sure a lot of people reading this article are probably thinking it’s way too early to be talking about this. I would tend to agree, except for the fact that the Celtics aren’t only winning, they are blowing teams out. They are winning by an average of 10.37 ppg, and only two other teams have a better point differential: the Lakers (10.63 ppg) and the Cavaliers (12.70).
There’s only one team that keeps opponents to a lower ppg than the Celtics, who hold teams to 90.45 ppg, and that’s the Cavs at 90 ppg.
Most NBA fans will probably say there’s no chance they get to that magic number of 73 wins.
They may be right.
But, those are probably the same people that said the Celtics wouldn’t win the NBA Championship last year.