The Celtics are on a roll again heading into Friday night’s matchup at the TD Garden, and there’s little to suggest the 76ers will provide much resistance — especially with Allen Iverson(notes) out of the lineup.
Boston will try for its 12th victory in a row by beating lowly Philadelphia for the seventh straight time.
Strong starts have become standard for Boston since acquiring Kevin Garnett(notes) and Ray Allen(notes) in 2007. After completing those deals, the Celtics won 29 of their first 32 en route to its unprecedented 17th NBA title, and they began last season 27-2, capping that start with a 110-91 victory over Philadelphia on Dec. 23.
The Celtics (20-4) currently own the NBA’s best record, but not everything has been as easy as their record would suggest.
The Celtics, however, allowed the Grizzlies to shoot 51.2 percent and gave up 100 for the seventh time this season. Boston countered with 10 3-pointers and had seven players score in double figures, led by 19 from Pierce.
“We didn’t do our best, obviously,” coach Doc Rivers said. “Our defense was not very good. They made shots. They beat us on the hustle board, and in a lot of areas. Other than that, we had some good execution down the stretch.”
Garnett has led the Celtics during their current win streak with 17.4 points per game on 66.1 percent shooting, but it’s Pierce that’s done the most damage against Philadelphia over the past two seasons.
He’s averaged 20.7 points on 53.6 percent shooting and led Boston in scoring in both of its wins this season over the 76ers, including a 27-point performance in a 113-110 home victory Nov. 25.
The loss was part of Philadelphia’s 12-game slide that ended Monday at home against Golden State. The 76ers (6-19) followed with a 108-101 defeat to visiting Cleveland two nights later.
Iverson played just over 34 minutes, and finished 16 points, six rebounds and five assists after having his arthritic left knee drained before the game for the second time this week.
“This one’s on me. I let us down tonight,” Iverson said. “I feel bad, that’s a game we should have won.”
Averaging 15.6 points since returning to Philadelphia on Dec. 7, the former rookie of the year and MVP is probable for Saturday’s home game against the Los Angeles Clippers.
Philadelphia has dropped three straight in Boston.