Paul Pierce says the Boston Celtics are still a work in progress. If that's the case, the Philadelphia 76ers probably have no desire to see the finished product.
On Wednesday night, the Atlantic Division-leading Celtics seek to continue their recent dominance of a Philadelphia club trying to end its longest losing streak of the young season.
Boston (10-4) opened the season by winning its first six games and eight of its first nine, but had dropped three of four before bouncing back in dramatic fashion Sunday at New York. The Celtics beat the Knicks 107-105 in overtime when Kevin Garnett hit a jumper at the buzzer. Garnett shot just 4 for 15 during a subpar performance by his standards, but Paul Pierce didn't hesitate to feed him the ball for the final shot.
"He's that type of player," Pierce said. "You're talking about a Hall of Fame player. He's missed millions of shots. He's going to keep playing, going to keep taking shots when he gets an opportunity. He really stepped up big for our team when we needed it."
Pierce stepped up all game, scoring a season-high 33 points including all seven of the Celtics' points in overtime prior to Garnett's buzzer-beater. Kendrick Perkins added 16 points - also a season high - and 13 rebounds as six Boston players scored in double figures.
"We played better today. Not the way we'd like to, of course, but better," Pierce said. "We're going to build on that. We're still a work in progress."
If the Celtics can still improve, that would be ominous news for the Sixers (5-9). Boston has beaten Philadelphia five straight times, including a 105-74 romp at the Wachovia Center on Nov. 3 that remains the Sixers' most lopsided defeat of the season. The Celtics shot 56.9 percent in that contest, and have scored at least 100 points in each game of the streak while holding Philadelphia below the century mark each time.
"They are veterans and we know they know how to play together," Sixers forward Thaddeus Young said of the Celtics after the meeting earlier this month.
Philadelphia has lost three straight for the first time this season, and will now try to avoid a winless three-game road trip. After losing 97-91 at Cleveland on Saturday, the Sixers fell 108-107 at Washington on Tuesday night as their comeback attempt fell short. They rallied from a 15-point third-quarter deficit to pull within one on Louis Williams' layup with 40 seconds remaining, but Williams missed a potential game-winning 3-pointer as the final buzzer sounded.
Williams finished with a team-high 26 points while Young added 23. Andre Iguodala, whose 17 points led Philadelphia against the Celtics on Nov. 3, struggled to finish with 12 on Tuesday as he missed 8 of 10 shots from the field.
The Sixers return home to face Atlanta on Friday before returning to the road for four games. The Celtics host Toronto on Friday, then embark on a four-game trip of their own.