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Home wreckers are chasing home records

With wins this week against the lowly Kings and Bucks, Kevin Garnett's Celtics would tie the franchise record for best home start (12-0). With wins this week against the lowly Kings and Bucks, Kevin Garnett's Celtics would tie the franchise record for best home start (12-0). (FILE/Barry Chin/Globe Staff)
Email|Print| Text size + By Peter May
Globe Staff / December 11, 2007

There is one team in the NBA still without a win on the road. That team, the Sacramento Kings, will be in Boston tomorrow, one of two places in the NBA where the home team has yet to lose. (Could be a Patriots/Dolphins-like line.) Two nights later, a team with almost as underwhelming a road record, Milwaukee, will make its first appearance of the season in Boston.

Can you say "franchise record"?

The 2007-08 Celtics are well-positioned to match the 1984-85 Celtics for best home start in the history of the storied franchise. That team opened with 12 straight home wins, although only 11 were at the old Boston Garden. One was at the Hartford Civic Center.

This year's team has opened with 10 straight wins at the new Garden, nine of which can be characterized as "emphatic." They aren't just winning; they are obliterating all who cross the parquet - and this week's putative victims look every bit as helpless and hapless as the ones before.

The Kings are without their leading scorer, Kevin Martin, and arguably their best player, Mike Bibby. Martin started the year on a roll, then strained his right groin and is unlikely to return in 2007. Bibby has yet to play because of a torn ligament in his left thumb. For fan entertainment, the Kings do still have Ron Artest, but the palmy days of Bibby, Peja, and C-Web are long, long gone.

The Bucks seem to be just as predictably DOA. They had lost seven of eight going into last night's game at - ta da - Sacramento. (Do you think the Celtics even will bother scouting that game?) Their first two games back following a five-game Western Conference swing: home against Orlando and then at Boston. Thanks, guys.

The Celtics have made it a point to hold service at home, but they are doing so with Federerian dominance. Their average margin of victory in the 10 home games is almost 22 points (throw out the 1-point win over Miami and it's 24). They average more than 26 assists a game! True, they have lucked out somewhat with outmanned opponents (Cleveland without LeBron James, Toronto without Chris Bosh and Andrea Bargnani, and the Knicks without any soul, verve, or passion).

"We know we are comfortable at home," Ray Allen said. "We're going to find every reason to feel like our backs are against the wall. We have something to prove every night. It's not a situation where you just come in and say, 'We are going to win tonight because we're supposed to.' Every team is going to put their best against us. I think we've developed that chip on our shoulder."

How long before the Celtics start chasing some real history at home? Well, try spring. The 1985-86 Celtics represent the gold standard for home dominance (40-1) but, 22 years ago today, they were five days removed from their sole home defeat of the season. They won their last 31 at home that year, and all 10 of their playoff games. 49-1? Not too shabby.

The 1995-96 Chicago Bulls own the NBA record for the best home start to a season, winning their first 37 before losing a 1-pointer to Charlotte April 8. Twelve days later, their No. 1 playoff seed not in question, they lost again at home, by 1 point, to Indiana. So two baskets essentially stopped that team from going 41-0 at home.

That same year, the Magic opened by winning their first 33 at home; they lost four of eight going down the stretch. They also were swept in the conference finals in what turned out to be Shaq's last season in Hooterville.

Red Auerbach's Washington Capitols opened with 27 straight wins in 1946-47, the third-best home start in league history. That team finished 29-1 at home.

It's much too soon to start envisaging that kind of home superiority for these Celtics. The ever-crafty Pistons are in a week from tomorrow, the Bulls a week from Friday, and the Magic a week from Sunday. But it clearly is not too soon to put these guys in the same company breaking from the gate as those leviathans from the 1980s.

A win tomorrow night will tie this team with teams from 1963-64, 1965-66, and 1979-80, all of which also started 11-0 at home. Of those three, only the 1979-80 team failed to win the NBA championship. (Then again, the 1984-85 team didn't win it, either.)

There's also a pretty imposing overall record as well. The Celtics' win Saturday night in Chicago gave them a 17-2 record. That happens to be the same record the 1985-86 Celtics had after 19 games before losing Game 20. The 1972-73 Celtics, the best statistically in franchise history at 68-14, also won 17 of their first 19 games before losing Game No. 20.

Given the current state of the Kings, it sure looks like these Celtics will at least lay claim as the franchise's best ever - from a record standpoint - after 20 games. But no one on this team, or any other meaningful Celtics team, will care about that. As Paul Pierce noted recently, "Records are always great. That's something to remember. But we're in it for bigger goals."

Peter May can be reached at p_may@globe.com

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