NEW YORK -- Boston is talking about the undefeated New England Patriots. Boston is talking about the now-tainted Roger Clemens. Boston is not talking about its 20-2 Celtics.
|Paul Pierce believes his Celtics are among the elite. Beating Detroit would prove it. (AP)|
Are these pipe dream Celtics for real?
Boston has a right to be skeptical. Not only has the city gotten used to winning, but it has also been through the center-of-the-basketball-universe thing a few times and isn't ready to embrace a reprisal of that role until it is sure. Wednesday's game against Detroit, a team that has been there, leads the Central Division and serves as a realistic measuring stick, will dictate just how excited the city should be about this latest incarnation.
It's rare to see a big game in mid-December, but given all the circumstances involved, this is it.
"Interesting," Pistons president Joe Dumars said when reached with the news that the Celtics have never started 13-0 at home, a feat they will attempt to attain at Detroit's expense.
Boston is also attempting to set a new record as far as prosperity to start a season is concerned. A 21-2 start would be better anything the Larry Bird-led bunch accomplished, which would silence the nonbelievers that poke at all the team's holes, from its lack of big men to its unproven point guards.
Beat Detroit and none of that comes into play. It's not like Orlando, which paid Jameer Nelson too much money to hang around for five more years and will suffer come postseason if they ever run into a team that has a bigger point guard smart enough to exploit the size difference.
The Celtics are for real, poised to take over for LeBron James' Cleveland Cavaliers as the Eastern Conference representative in the Finals. That said, this game is a proving ground, scheduled to quell all the Doubting Thomases that have rightfully assembled.
Boston vs. Detroit. Mid-December. Doesn't get any bigger.
|Monday||Orlando at Dallas|
|Monday||Phoenix at San Antonio|
|Tuesday||L.A. Lakers at Chicago|
|Wednesday||Detroit at Boston|
|Wednesday||Phoenix at Dallas|
|Wednesday||Orlando at Houston|
|Thursay||L.A. Lakers at Cleveland|
|Thursday||Houston at Denver|
|Friday||Utah at Orlando|
|Saturday||New Jersey at New York|
|Saturday||Golden State at New Jersey|
|Saturday||Houston at Chicago|
|Sunday||Golden State at Cleveland|
|Sunday||Orlando at Boston|
Team of the week
Miami has an opportunity to bounce back from its early-season struggles with a light schedule this week. If it intends to rebound from the hole it has dug for itself, it better start now. Shaquille O'Neal still wants more shots, but Dwyane Wade is turning it around and Pat Riley has gained enough familiarity with his personnel to cut Penny Hardaway and cut ties with Smush Parker. Playing host to Minnesota, New Jersey and Utah and playing at Atlanta affords the opportunity to get back on track.
Team of the weak
As predicted, the Sixers have been on their best behavior since Ed Stefanski took over, which is the everyday equivalent of shining in front of your new boss. Call me a pessimist if you must, but the Sixers' surge figures to come to an end this week in games at Indiana and Memphis, which are sandwiched around a visit from the Lakers.
Player to watch
Steve Nash had a lot of fun doing an interview after losing a tooth on Friday night, but this week promises not to be as jovial. The first stop is San Antonio, followed by Dallas and a stop from Canada's squad.