At the beginning of the season, people believed the Boston Celtics would be complacent after just one NBA Championship. After all, they did lose James Posey, arguably one of the most important pieces to their championship run, to free agency and the Big Three of Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, and reigning Defensive Player of the Year Kevin Garnett were a year older.
There were also question marks about the depth of the bench and the development of youngsters Rajon Rondo and Kendrick Perkins. Every challenge and question has been answered emphatically as they're riding a blistering 17-game winning streak heading into a showdown with the New York Knicks on Sunday. But, two questions have to be answered: How long can this streak go, and can the Celtics win 70?
Looking at the schedule, should the Celtics get past the Lakers on Christmas Day, we are looking at a potential 28-game winning streak, which would be five off of the NBA record. But, of course, we must take this one game at a time and see where the road takes us. But, the Celtics are sending a clear, physical message to the rest of the NBA that they are intent on not giving up their throne.
So, how are they doing it? How is Boston continually making it look easy night after night? Besides the leadership of Garnett and brilliant coaching by Tom Thibadeau, a look into the stat sheet will provide us with answers. At 24-2, they rank second in the the league in points allowed, allowing just about 90 points per game (allowed 100 points only nine times this season). Also, they hold opponents to under 41 percent shooting from the field overall, which is the best in the NBA.
After seeing what the Celtics did to the Knicks last season, it is safe to say their winning streak will remain intact. So, we turn to the rematch from the Finals on Christmas Day. This game matches two of the league's best and is one of the most anticipated rematches in history. No doubt the L.A. fans will be hungry for redemption after seeing their team get destroyed and humiliated on National TV back in June.
One of the biggest surprises to the Celtics scorching run has been the improvement of potential All-Star guard Rajon Rondo. Rondo has become the fourth scoring option in this offense and has become an assist machine, averaging almost eight per game, including a season-high 15 against Chicago on Friday.
Now the bigger question becomes can they win 70 games? At the current pace they are on, one would say yes. Is it necessary for them to reach 70 wins? Probably not as they will have clinched everything they need to (homecourt, best record, division) earlier than anyone else. So, the choice will be whether to rest the key players and give the bench some playing time or go for history itself should the opportunity be there.
Though this winning streak and the hype surrounding it is justified, the Celtics' focus is on one thing: keeping the Larry O'Brien trophy in Boston. Winning 70 games will mean nothing unless another NBA Championship is raised to the rafters of TD BankNorth Garden.