The last time the Boston Celtics won 10 straight games, they had a different “Big Three” and were on their way to a 16th NBA championship.
The Celtics can win their 10th in a row and 19th out of 20 on Wednesday when they host the Charlotte Bobcats, who have lost 11 straight road games.
This season’s “Big Three” will likely be down to two for Wednesday’s game. Ray Allen, whose last-second shot lifted the Celtics (29-3) over the Bobcats (12-21) in the teams’ first meeting this season, has a pinched nerve in his neck, and Celtics coach Doc Rivers said on Tuesday that he expects the shooting guard to miss Wednesday’s game but return Friday at New Jersey.
“The last two days or so it got a little worse to where I couldn’t sleep,” Allen said Tuesday. “Any way I turned, there was a real sharp pain back there.”
Allen, who also missed two December games with an ankle injury, has struggled in recent games, shooting a combined 3-of-17 from the floor in the last two and failing to reach double-digit points in consecutive games for the first time since the 1998-99 season.
But the Celtics have continued to win, posting their second nine-game winning streak in the last 19 games with a 92-85 road win on Saturday against the second-best team in the league—the Detroit Pistons, who had won 11 straight and dealt them their only loss in that span.
The Celtics haven’t won 10 in a row since Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish led them to 14 straight wins in March and April of 1986, months before Boston’s most recent NBA title.
Against the Pistons, rookie forward Glen “Big Baby” Davis had a game-high 20 points, the first time anyone other than Allen, Paul Pierce or Kevin Garnett has led the Celtics in scoring. But Davis also may be unavailable for Wednesday’s game with a sore knee.
“They were stopping me and stepping up against Ray and Garnett, and that left Baby open,” Pierce said. “… This was a huge win because we won on the road in a playoff atmosphere against a team that had won 11 straight.”
The Celtics will hope to avoid a letdown against Charlotte, which ended a three-game losing streak with a 115-99 home win over New Jersey on Tuesday. The win came after part-owner Michael Jordan met with coach Sam Vincent and appeared in the locker room before the game.
Jason Richardson had 25 points and Gerald Wallace added 21 and 11 rebounds as the Bobcats shot a season-best 58.7 percent from the field. Centers Nazr Mohammed and Emeka Okafor each had 17 points and were a combined 15-of-17 from the floor.
“We finally got everything clicking on all cylinders,” Vincent said. “We hadn’t had a chance to have one of those kind of games all year long, really.”
Still, the Bobcats have lost seven of nine overall and haven’t won on the road since their road opener at Miami on Nov. 4. A 12th straight loss would match their franchise record for consecutive road losses, set in their inaugural season in 2004-05, then matched again the following season.
The Celtics, meanwhile, are an NBA-best 16-1 at home, holding opponents to 83.4 points per game and 39.8 percent shooting there. Boston’s NBA-best defense (87.3 ppg) has not allowed 100 points in 15 straight games.
Boston won 96-95 at Charlotte on Nov. 24, when Eddie House stole Richardson’s inbounds pass with 4.7 seconds left and Allen hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to give the Celtics the win.
The Bobcats are just 1-5 in franchise history at Boston’s TD Banknorth Garden, but earned their first win there in their most recent visit last March, 92-84.