Celtics Keep Producing Wins Despite Difficult Schedule


Celtics Keep Producing Wins Despite Difficult Schedule A year removed from a title, loaded with star power and sitting atop the Eastern Conference, the Celtics are chock full of superlatives.

Here's another: Through Saturday they are the only team in the NBA to have already played eight games.

Yet, following a sluggish 86-76 win in New Jersey on Saturday night Boston's record stood at an impressive 7-1 and it could finally look forward to getting a little rest.

"It's over," coach Doc Rivers said of the stretch. "Coming out 7-1 –before the season when we looked at these eight games we would've said, 'Yeah, we'll take that.'"

The busy slate began to show its effects by the middle of this week. After routing Philadelphia on Tuesday the Celtics struggled to get past lowly Minnesota the next night, and then lost at home to Phoenix on Friday in a game that saw Boston a step slow on defense and short on several shots.

Then, playing against a Nets team that had just eight healthy players and remained the lone winless squad in the league, it took everything the C's had to survive.

Boston trailed by two points entering the fourth and didn't take the lead for good until Brian Scalabrine hit a 3-pointer with just over 11 minutes remaining. In an indication that the legs were gone, that was the Celtics' first 3-pointer of the game and just their third in 24 attempts since halftime Friday.

"The biggest thing [about the schedule is] you see guys are short on their shots or free throws because you're not getting in to the gym to work on your free throws," said Scalabrine, who was held out of Friday's loss with back spasms. "The biggest thing is you've got to focus in mentally and get these wins."

Or, as Rivers put it, you can "milk the game," just hoping to get to the end with a chance to win.

"I didn't think we had a lot in the tank," Rivers said. "I could see that. That's why I sat our starters for long stretches today and I was just trying to milk the game and pray at the end that we had enough to win."

Beginning with the NBA opener in Cleveland on Oct. 27, the Celtics have yet to enjoy two straight days off. They will have three days of rest before Utah visits TD Garden on Wednesday.

But do not expect too much in the way of sleeping late, eating out or watching movies. The past few games, fatigue aside, has given Boston plenty to work on.

"We had the eight in 12, and we haven't practiced a lot, but now we got a more basic schedule where we can get two practices in and tighten things up," Scalabrine said. "Once we do that I feel like our team will be back where it's supposed to be."

At the very least, it can get back to feeling a bit more like the rest of the league.

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