Thursday, March 20, 2008

Boston 6 - Texas 0

When you win on the road against a team with a 29-5 home record, in your third game in four nights, you’re doing something special. When you defeat all three Texas teams in that span, you’re doing something rare. When you go 6-0 against San Antonio, Dallas, and Houston, who have a combined record of 135-70 you’re doing something exceptional. When you do all this in a season where you’ve also swept the dreaded post Christmas road trip, you’re doing something historic. How historic? The last Celtics team to win the Texas Three Step in four days, beat all three of them at home, and sweep the West Coast trip was the 59 win 1987 team, the defending champs who saw their bid to repeat fail in a six game Finals against the Lakers .

The Cs beat Dallas on a night where their point guards shot a combined 1-16, and the whole team shot 34.5% from the field. Like the great Celtics team from the 80s, this squad finds a way to win basketball games regardless of circumstances. Ray Allen’s coming off an injury which kept him out of the last two games? Run an inbounds play for him and have him swish a three point shot with 31 seconds left and grab a two point lead. Rajon Rondo is turning in his worst game of the year, with five turnovers and 0-7 shooting in 22 minutes? No problem, just turn the reins over to Cool Hand Sam Cassell and let him make sure the right guy has the ball at the right time. The Other Two, Rondo and Kendrick Perkins, isn’t bringing much to the table point-wise? Go to Leon Powe and get your bench to outscore Jason Terry and Dallas’ bench, 26-15. Shots not falling? Get to the free throw line 35 times to the Mavs’ 24.

The Cs have now won 14 out of their last 15 games, and are getting big contributions from different players every victory. Paul Pierce turned in another sterling effort, grabbing a season high 13 rebounds and efficiently scoring 22 points on 14 shots. He also blocked three shots and dished off for three assists, without committing a turnover. Pierce has made the transformation from One Man Band to exceptional team player, knowing when to force his will on a game and when to be a just a spoke in the Celtics’ wheel. His ability to drive the ball powerfully to the rim was certainly needed in Dallas, since he missed five out of six jumpers outside the lane. He finished off five out of eight shots inside the paint, and earned 13 FTs with his aggressive play.

The Celtics have one more challenge to overcome on this road trip, a Saturday meeting with Chris Paul and the New Orleans Hornets for the first time this season. I have the feeling that this team will be quite stoked about sweeping the entire road trip. Boston is currently 55-13, tied for the best record after 68 games in team history. The 1973 team, the winningest in Celts’ history and the fourth highest win total in league history, won 13 out of their final 14 games to get to 68 wins. They were knocked out of the playoffs by the eventual champion Knicks in the Eastern Conference Finals in seven games after John Havlicek injured his shoulder and actually played the final game shooting left handed.

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