A 10-4 record in November is nothing to be ashamed of. But when you start off December with a 7-0 record and your average margin of victory for the month is 12.1, a 10-4 November seems like a disappointment.
The Celtics now own the best record in the East at 20-4 after tearing off 11 wins in a row — a streak that is still alive. With eight of the 11 wins coming on the road, the Celtics have gone from a team with no identity to the team everyone expected to see.
The Big Three have grabbed the headlines during the Celtics' recent run, all while Rajon Rondo has developed into a quality scorer. And while it's hard to deny Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Rondo of their roles in the winning streak, it's even harder not to recognize the impact that Rasheed Wallace and Eddie House have had on the Celtics' success in December.
Wallace and House have a tendency to get lost in the shuffle on a first-place team that boasts three of the top 13 salaries in the game. But after two-plus seasons with the same starting five, the addition of the veteran Wallace has only enhanced Boston's chemistry and given the Celtics a more balanced attack.
“They’ve been together, that’s our advantage," head coach Doc Rivers told The Boston Globe. “It’s the same starting five for the last three years. You have veterans coming off the bench — Rasheed Wallace and Eddie House. We’ve played a lot of games together, so we have a great confidence that if the game is close, we know we can win."
From November to December, Wallace has seen drastic improvements in his field-goal percentage (up 3.4 percent), 3-point shooting (up 12.2 percent), free-throw shooting (up 25.9 percent) and points-per-game average (up 2.1 points). He has scored in double digits in five of Boston's seven games this month, and is averaging more blocks and fewer turnovers.
Over that same time, House's field-goal percentage has climbed from 33.8 to 40.7 percent, and his scoring has risen from 5.6 to 8.6 points per game. He is averaging more minutes, more rebounds, more blocks, more steals and less turnovers as well.
“We go out and don’t turn the ball over, get some stops and get some buckets," Wallace told the Globe. “We see the game from the bench, so we see what’s needed."
Wallace and House might be the most important components of one of the deepest benches in the league, but they are just a piece of the puzzle. The contributions of Shelden Williams and the recently injured Marquis Daniels have also helped the Celtics achieve the best record in the game through the first quarter of the season.
If the Celtics are able to sustain the elite level of play that has earned them 11 straight wins over the last three weeks, there aren't too many teams, if any, that will keep up with them over the long haul. And not to jump the gun, but in a seven-game series, the unparalleled depth of the Celtics' bench will be tough to match.
"We’re just starting to improve," Garnett told the Boston Herald. "It’s still December."