USA TODAY US Edition
Celtics surge with playoffs ahead
The Boston Celtics shouldn’t be here now.
They’re supposed to be too old, past their prime, no match for a compressed 66-game season and another NBA title.
Yet with eight games remaining in the regular season, the Celtics (34-24) are surging.
The Celtics have won nine of their last 11 games, including dominating wins against the Miami Heat, Indiana Pacers and Philadelphia 76ers, and hold a three-game lead in the Atlantic Division.
It’s a completely differentlooking team from the one that had five-game losing streaks in January and February.
The Chicago Bulls and Heat separated early on from the rest of the Eastern Conference. But in the last two weeks the Celtics have beaten the Heat twice, and Chicago, with the league’s best record of 45-14, had been cautious in using often-injured star guard Derrick Rose too much before the playoffs.
“I think everybody is sort of looking at Miami and Chicago as the two teams. I would not blink on Boston, I will tell you that. Because they can defend you and they’ve got matchups,” Philadelphia 76ers coach Doug Collins said Sunday after the Celtics pounded his team 103-79.
A few weeks ago, it seemed Boston was on the brink of switching to rebuilding mode. Veteran shooting guard Ray Allen and point guard Rajon Rondo were the subjects of trade talk; forward Paul Pierce’s name came up earlier.
But general manager Danny Ainge stuck with the core group that won the NBA title in 2008 and reached the NBA Finals in 2010.
The dividends are showing. Coach Doc Rivers at midseason moved Kevin Garnett from forward to center.
Since the All-star break, Garnett has averaged 17.5 points and 8.7 rebounds and Pierce has averaged 20.9 points.