Only one team in Celtics history has felt more comfortable at home than the 2007-08 edition. And the current Celtics are just one win shy of joining that team from 23 years ago in the living room.
The Celtics improved to 11-0 at home with a 90-78 victory over the Sacramento Kings last night. Boston can tie the franchise record for best start at home, 12-0 by the 1984-85 team, with a victory tomorrow night against the Bucks. The Celtics also improved to an NBA-best 18-2, tied for the best record after 20 games in franchise history.
"When they make that trip here and look at our record, we want them to think twice," said Paul Pierce, who scored a game-high 26 points. "That in itself is an intimidation factor."
With starting center Kendrick Perkins (toe) and backup center Scot Pollard (back) out, Boston was limited to 10 available players, including three big men in Glen Davis, Brian Scalabrine, and the seldom-used Leon Powe. So, coach Doc Rivers turned to Davis to make his first career start. Davis, who entered the game averaging 4.5 points and 3.3 rebounds, responded with 16 points and nine boards in 27 minutes.
"You've just got to go out there and be humble, but play hard," Davis said. "That's what I wanted to do."
Considering their offensive statistics, it's amazing the Celtics won comfortably. Boston shot just 39.1 from the field and missed 16 of 22 3-pointers. The Celtics were outrebounded, 35-33, and were one rebound shy of tying a season low. And after scoring 18 points against Chicago last Saturday, point guard Rajon Rondo was scoreless on 0-of-4 shooting and played only 34 seconds of the fourth quarter.
"I'm impressed with the talent they got, not how they played," said Sacramento forward Ron Artest, who had 16 points on 7-of-19 shooting. "I think they got a lot of flaws. But their positives outweigh their negatives and that's why they are able to win games. I think in a couple months they are going to get better."
The Celtics entered as the NBA's top defensive team, allowing only 87.7 points per game. But the Kings shot 54.5 percent in the first half and owned a 45-44 lead. Sacramento is the first team to hold a halftime lead against the Celtics at TD Banknorth Garden this season.
"Obviously, we've got to give Sacramento credit," Rivers said. "I thought they forced a slower tempo, shot the ball extremely well. I didn't think we had a lot of defensive energy in the first half. I thought it was one of the . . . few games that we allowed our missed shots to affect us on the defensive end. And that really hasn't happened. I thought it happened in the first half."
Said Pierce: "We were really upset about the way we came out in the first half."
Boston's defense, however, picked up its intensity in the second half, holding the Kings to 33 points on 35.1 percent shooting. Artest scored only 6 points in the second half and no King scored more than 8 (Brad Miller). The Celtics also caused nine turnovers and outscored the Kings, 46-33, after the break. Pierce and Ray Allen combined for 22 points in the second half.
"They were hustling," Artest said. "Whatever they lacked, they made up for by hustling. I don't think they've got great individual defenders. But they are trying to play good team defense and they played good team defense. They were all over me tonight. I couldn't get free at all. They were doubling me real fast."
Two straight Allen 3-pointers gave Boston a 62-55 lead with 3:59 remaining in the third quarter. Two Davis free throws, which gave him 10 points for the quarter, pushed Boston up, 68-64, with 52.6 seconds left in the third.
The Celtics opened the fourth quarter with a 5-0 run to take a 73-64 lead. A 17-foot jumper by Miller trimmed the Kings' deficit to 73-66 with 7:08 left and accounted for their first points of the quarter. But Eddie House's 3-pointer gave Boston an 81-68 lead with 4:34 remaining.
"It's really nice," said Rivers of the Celtics' play at home. "If you want to be a really good team, a great team, you have to do that. And we've never, obviously, been able to establish anything here in this building. So it's really nice. It'll pay dividends later."
Marc J. Spears can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org