WALTHAM - The NBA season is young, but by the end of the month the Celtics will have completed more than 20 percent of their schedule. And today's visit to Detroit could provide an early preview of the playoffs.
The Pistons' Rasheed Wallace, for one, fully expects the teams to be rematched in the Eastern Conference finals.
"We took it on the chin," Wallace said recently. "We lost [in six games last season]. But that didn't discourage us. That just made us more focused to the things we had to do this year.
"Not to knock Cleveland. Cleveland's a good ball club. But too many young guys. I don't think they're ready yet. When the smoke settles, who is always there? It's always us against another team.
"We took Indiana down [in recent years]. We took New Jersey down. We took a lot of these 'picks' and 'powers' down. Our next challenge now is Boston.
"Right now, you have to give them their respect because they're sitting on top of the mountain. So they're going to have everybody gunning at them and they're going to be our next series."
Allen Iverson is directing Detroit's offense in place of Chauncey Billups, following the trade last week, and will make his home debut against the Celtics tonight. The Pistons lost at New Jersey, 103-96, in his first game Friday night.
"The next two weeks are going to be a big test for us," said Celtic Ray Allen. "Playing Detroit on the road, then coming back home and playing Toronto, then we see Atlanta. Those teams are going to be gunning for us.
"[The Pistons] have a lot of talent, they have veteran players on the squad, they have guys who know exactly what they do, what they do well, and how they do it well with each other. That's always tough for us.
"[Iverson] is one of the all-time best at what he does, but we don't know how that's going to incorporate into the mix. It'll be interesting to watch. But it's even tougher for us because now we have to get to know a different Detroit team."
Iverson was especially happy about being traded to the Pistons because he believes he fits the city and franchise's blue-collar reputation.
"I want to be around toughness," he said Thursday. "I want to be around guys that are tough, committed to win, guys that want to win as bad as I do. I believe that I'm in the right place.
"[The Pistons] have won 50 games six years in a row. Obviously, they care about winning and they're dedicated to winning. Being at the end of my career, that's what I'm all about is winning.
"We're tough as hell. Tough. That's it. You can talk about how well Rip [Hamilton] can play and how well 'Sheed [Wallace] can play and [Jason] Maxiell, you can talk about Tayshaun [Prince]. I'm talking about toughness, man.
"I just want to be around tough-minded players and tough players, physically. These guys, their mentality is toughness. Their mental aspect in games when games are tight, you never see them choke up or anything like that. They're up for a challenge and they understand things are not going to be easy around here. They're going to get it done."
Asked if he can fit in with the Pistons, Iverson replied, "When I went to Denver, they said it wouldn't work. When we got Chris Webber, they said it wouldn't work in Philadelphia. But that's on us as a team. We are the only ones that can make it work and we want to make it work. So, it's going to work."
Allen's start to the season has been uneven, his shot attempts ranging from nine to 17.
"I like to try to find a flow out there," he said yesterday, after an open practice before about 300 people affiliated with New England Baptist Hospital. "Every game is different, every team is going to play me a different way.
"I like to try to find shots in the flow, and the focus is to try to get to the free throw line, and try and get to the hole, and get midrange shots. I like to try to build some rhythm in there.
"I don't worry about it. As long as defensively we're playing as a team, and we're playing the right way, I think the sacrifices are worth it, just looking at these banners.
"Last year was tough because I had to adjust to it. Now I understand. I'm out there and I make adjustments to it.
"Winning games is the ultimate objective. I've been there when I've had 25-30 shots a game and scored 40 points and at the end of the game sitting on a loss."
Marc Spears of the Globe staff contributed to this report; Frank Dell'Apa can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.