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National respect

Posted by Gary Dzen, Boston.com Staff  November 13, 2007 02:59 PM

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That was fast.

Maybe it's the 5-0 record. Maybe it's the star power. Maybe it's the location. Titletown, USA isn't a bad address these days.

Whatever it is, the new-look Boston Celtics, the only undefeated team in the NBA, are drawing plenty of respect from the national media.

ESPN has the Celtics listed as No. 2 in its power rankings this week, behind the defending NBA champion San Antonio Spurs. NBA.com and SI.com have the Celtics at No. 1 in their rankings.

The PGA Tour (Pierce, Garnett, Allen) came with a lot of hype, but did anyone expect this? When the Celtics fell to the fifth pick at the NBA Draft lottery on May 22, the best-case scenario for Celtics fans was Al Horford dropping to No. 5. The worst-case scenario was what? Adding Corey Brewer to a team that won 24 games all of last season?

Less than six months later, the Celtics are recognized by the above pundits as the best team in the NBA. It's November, of course, and the league doesn't hand out championships in November, but that's quite a climb to make in such a short time.

The Celtics can run their record to 6-0 with a win tonight at Indiana (3-3). Former Celtics coach Jim O'Brien has Indiana playing good basketball, but it is a game the Celtics are expected to win. The return of James Posey and Brian Scalabrine to the Boston bench should help the cause.

After tonight, the Celtics return home for a game against New Jersey on Wednesday and a game against Miami on Friday. The team record for consecutive wins to start a season is 14, set in 1957. If the Celtics can make it through this week at 8-0, their next six opponents are, in order, Orlando, Golden State, the L.A. Lakers, Charlotte, Cleveland, and New York. All winnable games, to be sure.

Boston's first significant test could come Saturday, Dec. 8 at Chicago, though the Bulls have started off 1-5. The next stern test for the Celtics doesn't come until Wednesday, Dec. 19, when the Pistons come to the TD Banknorth Garden. It's highly unlikely, but without a Dallas, San Antonio, or Phoenix (or even a Utah) on their schedule until then, the Celtics could conceivably come into that Pistons game at 22-0.

The NBA record for consecutive wins to start a season is 15, set twice, but most recently by the Houston Rockets in 1993.

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