Portland (14-6) at Boston (18-2)

Cloudy Currently: Boston, MA
Temp: 52° F
  • Game info: 8:00 pm EST Fri Dec 5, 2008
  • TV: ESPN
Preview | Box Score | Recap

After winning just 24 games during the 2006-07 season, the Boston Celtics had a 19.9 percent chance of capturing the No. 1 overall pick in the draft - and they probably would have chosen Greg Oden.

Eighteen months later, it’s safe to say they’re glad it didn’t happen.

The defending NBA champions will try to win 11 consecutive games for the first time since the 1985-86 season on Friday when they host the red-hot Portland Trail Blazers and one of the players they were pining for before the franchise’s dramatic turnaround.

Boston had the league’s second-worst record two seasons ago, enduring an 18-game losing streak during the dismal campaign while star Paul Pierce missed nearly half the season due to injuries.

The Celtics may have hoped their resurgence would come behind Oden, but their worst-case scenario played out in the draft lottery, as they received the No. 5 overall pick.

“I was on a plane (when the lottery was held in May 2007) and it was like Boston or Memphis. Then, when I got off the plane, it was Portland,” Oden said last season, which he missed due to microfracture knee surgery after being chosen by the Blazers with the top pick.

It turned out to be a blessing in disguise for Boston, which flipped its first-round pick and two players to Seattle for Ray Allen, then sent five players to Minnesota for Kevin Garnett. The Celtics went 66-16 last season and won their 17th NBA championship.

Boston (18-2) hasn’t missed a beat early in its title defense, already matching its longest winning streak from last season at 10. The Celtics haven’t won 11 in a row since a 14-game run from March 11-April 4, 1986.

The latest victory came against Indiana on Wednesday, as point guard Rajon Rondo notched his first career triple-double with 16 points, 17 assists and 13 rebounds in a 114-96 win.

“He was amazing,” Garnett said. “It was like there was three Rondos. I looked up and it came off the rim and he is grabbing a rebound, then I got back on defense and he beat me back. He was everywhere tonight.”

Allen added 31 points on 6-of-9 shooting from 3-point range, while Garnett chipped in with 26 points and 14 rebounds to help make up for Pierce’s 5-of-17 performance from the field.

During their winning streak, the Celtics have blended an efficient offense with their signature defensive intensity. In the last 10 games, they’ve shot 50.6 percent from the field and averaged 105.4 points. They lead the NBA in scoring defense, allowing 90.3 points per game.

Portland (14-6) has been just as impressive recently, with its six-game winning streak tied with Cleveland for the second-longest active run in the NBA.

Though Oden also missed time this season with a foot injury, the 7-foot rookie has been productive lately, with six double-doubles in his last 12 games. He had 13 points and 10 rebounds in the Blazers’ 98-92 win at Washington on Wednesday - Portland’s third victory to start a five-game road trip.

Brandon Roy had 22 points against the Wizards, boosting his career-best scoring average to 21.1. Twelve of his points in the game came in the fourth quarter.

The Blazers - 7-0 against Eastern Conference opponents - have also been taking a page from Boston’s defensive-minded playbook. They’ve allowed 86.3 points per game and opponents have shot 43.2 percent from the field during the winning streak.

The Celtics have won six straight against Portland, including 100-90 at the TD Banknorth Garden last Jan. 16.

“We remember, and we know who they are,” Portland coach Nate McMillan said. “… They are the defending champions. We’re playing well, they’re playing well.”

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