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Gone with the win

Posted by Scott Souza December 18, 2008 05:55 AM

The Celtics have this little game they play when it comes to records, winning streaks, and anything else that doesn’t specifically have to do with securing a championship.

They claim ignorance.

Ask them their record, and they’ll vow they don’t know. Tell them their record, then ask them again the next day, and they’ll swear again they haven’t a clue. Mention a winning streak, and the Charlestown Code of Silence kicks in.

They take pride in the lack of awareness of something they view as insignificant to their ultimate goal. Asked last week about the streak — 15 straight games, fourth longest in franchise history as of Tuesday — Celtics coach Doc Rivers said he asked the players how long it was and was happy when only half of them knew the right answer.

Asked about it again a couple of days later, after a victory over the Jazz, the coach acted as if reporters had given him a problem straight out of advanced placement calculus.

“I just don’t even know, honestly,” he said.

There is a method to this sometimes-maddening amnesia. The Celtics all know that if they buy into the hype that their record alone means they are the best team in the NBA, they might not have the best record in the NBA for long.

“At the end of the year, our record is going to be what it is. We just need to keep getting better,” Paul Pierce said. “That’s it. We never come into the season saying that it’s our goal to win [a certain number of] games or break any records. The goal is just to continue to get better until we get to the playoffs.”

That said, they don’t seem particularly surprised to be 23-2 through Tuesday and on a better pace than last year’s team, which got off to a 29-3 start and posted a 66-16 overall regular-season record.

“We thought we’d be more comfortable with each other having a year under our belt,” Pierce said. “We are very ahead of the curve. It’s just a comfort level with our roles now. You know you’re not going to get 20, 25 shots. So it’s maximizing what we can do out there as a team. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter. We are just out there trying to win.”

And win they have. Almost every night. Perhaps feeding their reluctance to acknowledge that they’ve accomplished anything so far, they know the Lakers and Cavaliers remain a mere step behind in the race for home-court advantage in the playoffs.

Mind you, they don’t know their own record. But they know the records of the Lakers and Cavs — in a kinda sorta way.

“We’re laughing that, as well as we played, we have a one-game lead over Cleveland,” Rivers said. “Two or one, whatever it is, it’s not a lot.”

Promising campaign
Just when you thought the bumper stickers, mailers and robo-calls were gone for another four years, here comes the “Rajon Rondo for All-Star” campaign.

It’s an ambitious project on behalf of a third-year starter averaging just over 10 points per game, but it’s picking up quite a bit of momentum, and for good reason.

Rondo’s 25-point, nine-rebound, eight-assist effort — albeit with six turnovers — on Monday night was another huge effort, delivered while matched up against premier opposition in Utah’s Deron Williams.

“Pretty much every night there’s going to be someone at that position,” said Pierce of Rondo’s ability to play with league’s top opposition. “He’s just taking on the challenge, I believe. He is going to start getting recognized as one of the premier point guards in the game if he continues to do it and we continue to win.”

Rondo said he appreciated the words of his captain, but he vowed to keep his eye on the bigger picture beyond Phoenix in February.

“I just try to go out there every night and make something happen for my team,” he said. “That’s what it’s all about. All-Star [Games] are going to come. If it comes, it comes. I’m playing with three All-Stars.

“I don’t think about individual goals. I want to repeat this year.”

Scott Souza covers the Celtics for OT and can be reached at ssouza@globe.com

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Charles P. Pierce writes for the Boston Globe Magazine. A long-time sportswriter and columnist, Pierce is a frequent guest on national TV and radio.
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