|Doc Rivers had little to be unhappy about, but a first-half call drew his ire. (Barry Chin/Globe Staff)|
Larry Bird recently said he is reluctant to compare his Celtics teams of the 1980s with today's version. But after the current Celtics earned a 104-82 victory over the Bucks last night at TD Banknorth Garden, they have something in common with Bird's.
The Celtics joined their 1983-84 forebears as the only teams in franchise history to start 12-0 at home. They could break the record against the Pistons Wednesday.
"I'm happy for their success," Bird, now the Pacers' president of basketball operations, said recently through a Pacers spokesman. "I wish them well. The accomplishments this team has stands on their own."
Boston also improved to 19-2, the NBA's best record, and has won eight straight. It's the fourth time in franchise history the Celtics have opened the season 19-2. A win tomorrow against Toronto would match the 1963-64 team's start.
"I knew from [training camp] it was going to be a special group, but never in my wildest dream could I have imagined this," said Paul Pierce.
Pierce was Bird-like as he posted a season-high 32 points, nailing five 3-pointers and all nine of his free throws in 39 minutes. After going scoreless the previous game, Rajon Rondo had 17 points, 8 assists, and 4 rebounds, and Kevin Garnett added 15 points, 7 rebounds, and 4 assists.
"The last game, I wasn't as aggressive as this game, and I just wanted to come out aggressive," Rondo said.
Ray Allen, who averages 19.2 points, missed his first game of the season with lingering soreness in his right ankle. Backup center Scot Pollard was out for the second straight game with a back injury.
Tony Allen made his first start of the season in place of Ray Allen. Tony Allen had 11 points, 3 rebounds, and 2 assists in 33 minutes. He also played tough defense on Bucks guard Michael Redd, holding him to 7 points, 17 under his scoring average.
"TA was huge for us tonight," Garnett said. "He was coming to the bench asking about his offense. We were praising him more for his defense. He did a great job."
Kendrick Perkins also returned to the starting lineup after missing Wednesday's win over the Kings with a sore right toe. He said he felt winded after scoring 4 points and grabbing five rebounds in 27 minutes.
"I'm not going to lie. I think these two days off with no games and missing two practices, I don't think my conditioning was where it was when I left. I thought I did [well]."
Boston owned only a 46-44 lead at halftime after shooting 47.2 percent. Pierce had 14 points, while Garnett had 12.
Perkins's two-handed dunk with 7:54 left in the third quarter completed a 14-5 run to give the Celtics a 60-49 lead. The Celtics finished the quarter with a 78-59 lead.
Boston outscored the Bucks, 32-15, in the third despite shooting 47.6 percent. Pierce scored 12 points, all on 3-pointers. The Bucks shot only 37.5 percent and allowed 12 points off seven turnovers. The Celtics have outscored their opponents in the third quarter eight straight times.
"We are going to turn games around because of our defense," Pierce said. "I thought we made a great defensive run in the third quarter. Brought their field goal percentage down. That's what opened up the game."
Said Bucks guard Desmond Mason: "We held our own the first half. They came out aggressive [in the second half] and made plays. We didn't make plays. We turned the ball over in the third. That's where the game got away from us a little bit."
Pierce nailed two free throws with 7:42 left in the fourth to give the Celtics an 86-67 lead.
Although the Celtics made history, Garnett had no clue about it until a reporter mentioned it. He also didn't know the team's overall record until he saw the box score. He observed that with all due respect to the past, the Celtics are more focused on the next game than setting records.
"I'm not trying to be smart, but I'm not even aware of any of the records," Garnett said. "Every game is critical for us. We are preparing for each team like it's our last game."
Marc J. Spears can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.