A season-opening stretch of eight games in 12 nights may have appeared to be daunting, but the Boston Celtics managed to win six before finally losing.
They have an ideal chance to rebound Saturday night when they try to continue their dominance of the injury-riddled New Jersey Nets, who are off to the worst start in franchise history.
The Celtics (6-1) opened the season with a 95-89 win at Cleveland on Oct. 27 and followed with five more victories. That streak was snapped Friday with a 110-103 loss to Phoenix as Boston shot 4 of 18 from beyond the arc.
"The only thing I didn't like, with 3 1/2 minutes left, instead of searching for wide-open 2-pointers, we went into 3 mode. And I didn't think we had to do that," coach Doc Rivers said. "That, to me, was uncharacteristic of us."
Boston has a key chance to rebound immediately as they conclude a stretch of four games in five nights against the Nets (0-6), the only winless team remaining.
"If we were in the NFL, we'd have to wait a whole week," said guard Ray Allen, who had 16 points and seven rebounds against the Suns. "So we like the position we're in. We get a chance to go out and correct our mistakes."
The Celtics have won nine in a row against the Nets by an average of 13.2 points. They've also taken six straight meetings at New Jersey since April 16, 2006.
The matchup could also provide Kevin Garnett a chance to build off his season-high 26 points with eight rebounds Friday. The star forward's performance came after he totaled 15 points while going 7 for 20 from the floor over the previous two games.
Garnett missed two of the four matchups with the Nets last season due to a knee injury, which sidelined him for 24 of the final 34 games and all of the playoffs.
The Nets have been ravaged by injuries thus far, and coach Lawrence Frank was left with a four-man bench - of which he used three players - during a 97-94 loss to Philadelphia on Friday. They've been outscored by an average 12.1 points during the season-opening losing streak, which eclipsed the previous franchise record of five set in 1996.
"You go with what you got," said Frank, who is in his seventh season and is the longest-tenured coach in the Eastern Conference. "It's not a sympathy league."
New Jersey lost guard Courtney Lee early in the third quarter Friday with an apparent leg injury. The Nets were already missing guards Keyon Dooling (hip surgery), Chris Douglas-Roberts (flu), and Devin Harris (strained right groin) along with forwards Tony Battie (right knee), Yi Jianlian (sprained right knee) and Jarvis Hayes (strained left hamstring).
One player seemingly benefiting from an increased role is Brook Lopez, the 10th overall selection out of Stanford in the 2008 draft.
The center scored 22 points and pulled down 11 rebounds while playing a career-high 43:41 against the 76ers. He leads the Nets with averages of 17.2 points and 7.8 boards.