The Boston Celtics figure to be in a tight race for home-court advantage in the Eastern Conference playoffs all season, but right now, the prospect of having to play a critical game away from TD Garden doesn’t look so bad.
The Celtics look for their fifth straight road win and seventh overall Friday night as they close a four-game trip against the Oklahoma City Thunder, who can attribute much of their solid start to their success against the East.
Boston (15-4) finished 27-14 on the road last season, the same record Cleveland and Orlando compiled in the tight three-team race atop the conference.
Many expect a similar fight to the finish in 2009-10, but if the Celtics keep performing the way they have so far away from home, they may have the upper hand. Boston has won four straight and eight of nine on the road, including the first three games of the current trip.
Kevin Garnett’s(notes) 24 points on 11 of 12 shooting helped the Celtics start the trip with a 92-85 win in Miami on Sunday, then Ray Allen(notes) (27 points) and Kendrick Perkins(notes) (21) led the way in a 108-90 rout of Charlotte on Tuesday. It was Garnett’s turn to take over again Thursday in San Antonio, where he scored a game-high 20 in a 90-83 victory that gave Boston its second six-game winning streak of the season.
“We’ve got a little rhythm,” Garnett said.
“That’s the make or break of the trip,” Wallace said. “It’ll be a downer if we don’t go in there tomorrow and come out with a W.”
While Paul Pierce(notes) (18.2 points per game), Allen (17.3) and Garnett (16.8) have provided some typically balanced production during the streak, a more surprising scorer has emerged in the normally defensive-minded Perkins.
Coming off a breakout postseason in which he averaged 11.9 points and 11.6 rebounds, Perkins has developed into more of an offensive threat lately. He’s averaged 15.0 points on 77.8 percent shooting during the six-game winning streak, also chipping in 9.7 boards and 2.2 blocks.
It won’t be Perkins’ job to try to stay with Kevin Durant(notes) on Friday, but the Celtics can hope they’re as successful defending the league’s No. 4 scorer (27.7 ppg) as they were last season. Durant averaged 19.0 points in two games versus Boston in 2008-09 - shooting 6 of 15 each time - as the Celtics won by an average of 16.0 points.
Durant’s averaged 29.8 points as the Thunder have won three of four, and he hit 30 for the seventh time on Wednesday. The 2007-08 rookie of the year scored 33, hitting a season-high five 3-pointers, in Oklahoma City’s 117-106 victory over Philadelphia.
“We needed that spark, that energy and (Nick) came in, took a few charges, got some putbacks. He helped us out,” said forward Jeff Green(notes), picked fifth in the 2007 draft by the Celtics and traded as part of the deal that sent Allen to Boston. “He was that spark that got us over the top.”
The Thunder are 6-1 against the East this season - 4-0 at home - with Durant averaging 33.3 points in his team’s last four interconference matchups.