Imagine an ugly bar fight. That's basically how Celtics forward Kevin Garnett described what he saw last night at TD Banknorth Garden.
Boston pushed its perfect start to 7-0 with a 91-69 victory over the New Jersey Nets. The NBA's lone unbeaten team is off to its best start since going 10-0 to begin the 1972-73 season. The best start in franchise history is 14-0 in 1957-58. This is also the Celtics' first seven-game winning streak since March 9-19, 2005.
"We're not into how it looks, if it's decorated, the name brand of it," Garnett said. "A win is a win. We anticipated them coming out with a lot of energy. [Coach] Doc [Rivers] told us to be ready before we got off the plane [from Indianapolis] yesterday.
"I think it was settled on everyone's mind what kind of game this was going to be, and it was exactly that. It was a come into the bar, I'm trying to find a seat, you're talking to my girl bar fight. Am I lying? That's what it felt like."
The Celtics' star trio had an off night offensively, as Garnett (16 points), Paul Pierce (15), and Ray Allen (14) combined for 45 points.
Boston totaled a season low for points, but submitted its best defensive effort. The last time the Celtics held an opponent to fewer than 70 points was when the visiting 76ers had 65 March 28, 2004.
Boston also missed 9 of 31 free throws and 9 of 12 3-point attempts. New Jersey missed 15 of 32 free throws and 10 of 14 3-pointers.
While the game was far from pretty offensively, the Celtics showed they can rely on their defense in such circumstances.
"Defensively, I thought we were terrific all night, except for the first four or five minutes of the game," Rivers said. "And that's what kept us in the game tonight."
With the spotlight on Garnett, Pierce, and Allen, little attention has been paid to the Celtics' supporting cast. But on this night, the complementary players got Boston over the hump as Rajon Rondo and Tony Allen each scored 13 points, Kendrick Perkins added 10 points, 8 rebounds, and 4 blocks, and James Posey had 6 points, 5 rebounds, and 3 steals. Tony Allen's play was especially key since backup point guard Eddie House sat out with an ankle injury.
"I don't think there's any secret because the bottom line is you're going to dedicate a lot of attention to those guys, so Rondo, Perkins, those guys are going to get open rhythm shots, and if they can make them, Boston is going to be hard to beat," said Nets coach Lawrence Frank.
Said Pierce: "It was a night where the bench, the role guys really stepped up."
The Patriots have been humble about their 9-0 start and have often talked about being focused on what they need to do to get better. While the sport is different, the words are similar from the Celtics.
"You're honest by saying that," said Rivers. "You're almost repeating [the Patriots]. Now, on the news they're saying they sound like the Patriots. But it's truth. I don't know in their case because I'm not smart enough or know enough about football. But I know in our case it's a fact."
Rivers added that the Celtics had not played well in their most recent wins, over New Jersey and Indiana.
While Rivers said he didn't have enough time before the game to talk about all the issues, he did say the Celtics were gambling too much defensively and not closing out quarters and games the way he likes. He added that such play has caused his key players to be on the floor for more minutes than he prefers. After the game, Garnett added that the Celtics need to improve their offensive execution, defensive consistency, and limiting turnovers.
"There are things we want to get better on," said Ray Allen, who shot just 4 of 14 from the field. "We want to be perfect on both sides of the floor even though we are not perfect. It's like me from the free throw line trying to make a swish."
The Celtics are reconnecting with history with each win, but Garnett says they are focusing on the next game.
"We are more in tune with [improvement]," he said. "Not to disrespect the history of this great franchise, but I think we are a lot more in tune to what we are not doing well than the things we are doing well."
Marc J. Spears can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org