With a balanced scoring attack and solid defense, the Boston Celtics are showing why many believe they can win another NBA title.
The Eastern Conference-leading Celtics look to extend their winning streak to nine Thursday night when they visit the last-place Washington Wizards.
Boston and Orlando are tied for the best record in the East at 17-4, with the Celtics winning eight straight and Orlando posting victories in its last six.
The Celtics have been on a roll thanks to the play of their starting five and their strong showing on defense.
Paul Pierce(notes), Ray Allen(notes), Kevin Garnett(notes), Kendrick Perkins(notes) and Rajon Rondo(notes) all average double figures in scoring, and Boston leads the NBA with 90.5 points allowed per game. The Celtics finished second in the league in scoring defense when they were world champions in 2007-08, allowing 90.3 points a contest.
Boston held its third straight opponent under 90 on Tuesday night in a 98-89 home victory over Milwaukee. The Celtics have given up an average of 86.8 points in the last five games.
“This is a team of no excuses,” Garnett said. “Each guy covers each other. … Everybody in here puts forth their effort towards defense.”
Garnett led all five starters in double figures with 25 points against the Bucks, but it was the play of Rondo that lifted Boston. The fourth-year point guard scored all of his 11 points in the fourth quarter, added 13 assists and grabbed nine rebounds to help the Celtics win eight straight for the first time since a 12 game-run from Jan. 11-Feb. 3.
“With everybody else on the team, you kind of lose focus on (Rondo) a little bit,” Bucks point guard Brandon Jennings(notes) said. “You’re so worried about Pierce scoring, Garnett scoring and Allen scoring.”
Washington (7-12) also has plenty of scoring options, with Gilbert Arenas(notes) and Antawn Jamison(notes) both averaging more than 20.0 points and Caron Butler(notes) adding 16.6 per game. The Wizards, though, have trouble shutting teams down.
They allowed more than 100 points in three straight before losing for the second time in a row Sunday, 98-94 at Detroit. Washington gives up 100.4 points per game.
“There’s just a lack of aggression out there,” coach Flip Saunders said. “It’s a matter of playing basketball and reading things.”
Washington failed to stop Boston last season as it allowed an average of 115.0 points while losing all three meetings. The Celtics won 122-88 in their only visit to the Verizon Center and took the season series for the first time since going 6-0 against Washington in 1981-82.
Boston will be short-handed after guard Marquis Daniels(notes) underwent surgery to repair a torn ligament in his left thumb Wednesday. The 6-foot-6 Daniels, who signed this summer after three seasons with Indiana, is averaging 5.7 points and 2.1 assists in 19 games.
The Celtics, opening a three-game trip, are in the midst of playing seven of eight on the road. They are 9-1 away from Boston, winning their last five.
Washington has dropped five of eight at the Verizon Center since beating New Jersey 123-104 in its home opener Oct. 31.