Celtics off to strong start; record at 13-4

Accurate shooting, late scoring reasons for 4-game division lead

The Celtics have jumped off to a great start with thirteen wins and only four losses. With Paul Pierce averaging about 20 points per game, Rajon Rondo close to 15 assists per game, and Kevin Garnett around 9 rebounds per game, the Celtics now have a four-game lead in their division and look to be on their way to the playoffs this season. Ray Allen’s tremendous 45 percent shooting from beyond the arc led the team to two wins against a tough Miami team featuring three superstars in LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh.

Luckily, despite the Celtics squad’s age, the team’s performance thus far has not been plagued by injuries, a major factor that contributed to the Celtics’ loss to the Magic in the 2009 playoffs (when Garnett was out with a knee injury). However, the health of Shaquille O’Neal’s right knee and Jermaine O’Neal’s left knee pose problem. Although these big men have not had the opportunity to play every game, Glen Davis and Semih Erden have picked up their levels of play. The Celtics’ coach, Doc Rivers, knew going into the season that injuries were going to be a significant determinant of the team’s success, but he’s hopeful that the team can adjust. As Celtics President Danny Ainge says, “You just do the best you can. Our team has done well in their absence.”

A major part of the Celtics’ solid record so far has been their ability to perform late in the 4th quarter and overtime. Coming off the 116-110 overtime win against the Memphis Grizzlies, Celtics guard Paul Pierce emphasized, “You better stay up late with us, because that’s when we bring it.” Allen, after starting 1-for-6 in this game, knocked down 4 of his last 5, including all three three-point shots, one of which gave the team a huge cushion in overtime. As they step their game up late, look for them to continue to adding to their win total.

Along with their excellent play late in the game, the Celtics’ roster additions have given them a strong inside presence. The two O’Neals, Jermaine and Shaquille, have joined Garnett and Perkins to crash the boards. The Celtics are currently ranked third in the league in defensive rebounding, part of the reason for their ranking fifth in fewest points allowed per game.

Led by the sharpshooting of Ray Allen and the low-post scoring of Kevin Garnett, the Celtics lead the league in field goal percentage. This has proven to be crucial to their success, especially late in games when every possession and shot attempt count.

The Celtics hope to pick up another win on Friday as they go up against the Chicago Bulls, a team the Celtics beat in overtime in early November.