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News » TOM ENLUND Celtics unable to shake off pesky Cavs

TOM ENLUND Celtics unable to shake off pesky Cavs

TOM ENLUND  Celtics unable to shake off pesky Cavs
Want to know the most amazing thing about the Boston Celtics' franchise-record 19-game winning streak that ended in a Christmas Day loss to the Los Angeles Lakers?

The Celtics were able to create little separation between themselves and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the process.

The first victory in the Celtics' streak came against the Milwaukee Bucks at the Bradley Center on Nov. 15. That victory gave Boston a 9-2 record. On the same night, the Cavaliers defeated Utah to improve to 8-2.

After the Christmas games, in which the Lakers halted the Celtics' streak and Cleveland scratched out a victory over Washington, Boston's record was 27-3 and the Cavaliers' was 25-4.

Do the math. Cleveland stayed right on the Celtics' heels as Boston was getting off to the best start in NBA history.

"I mean, we're laughing," Boston coach Doc Rivers said during the latter stages of the winning streak. "As well as we play, we've got a one-game lead on Cleveland. Or two, or one. I don't even know what it is. So it's not a lot. You're trying to play for home court, that's what you're trying to do."

The Cavaliers lost two of their first three games, including a season-opening loss in Boston. They then won eight straight before losing at Detroit. Cleveland then won 11 in a row before losing at Atlanta. The Cavaliers' victory over Washington last week was their fifth straight, improved their record to 15-0 at home and marked the first time in a month that they actually gained ground on the Celtics.

Cleveland needed a game-ending 11-0 run to finish off the Wizards.

"We know we didn't play our best but we'll take the win," said Cleveland guard Mo Williams.

The Cavaliers are 10-4 on the road and look back on their loss in Atlanta on Dec. 13 as a wake-up call they needed to get tougher in their games away from home. They followed that loss with consecutive road victories over Minnesota, Denver and Oklahoma City. The last time Cleveland won three straight road games was Jan. 15-21, 2007, against Memphis, San Antonio and Miami.

The Cavaliers, one of the top defensive teams in the league, have dealt with their share of distractions in compiling their gaudy record, mostly notably trade rumors and the seemingly never-ending saga of LeBron James' impending free agency in 2010.

Coach Mike Brown said when a team's chemistry is as good as it is in Cleveland, trades are not likely to happen.

"Any time you have a team that is playing well, whether you have chemistry and whether you don't, it's risky to break it up," said Brown. "We do have pretty good chemistry. That is something I don't even think about doing right now."

As for James' future, he told the Cleveland Plain Dealer recently that because things are going so well for the team, he would consider signing an extension with the team this summer.

"The direction we are headed is everything I expected and more," said James.

Get off my cloud

When the Celtics played the Lakers last week, Boston guard Ray Allen was reminded of a comment he made while accepting an ESPY Award last July in Los Angeles.

"Another win in L.A.," Allen had said while accepting the "best team" award. Lakers players and even coach Phil Jackson have brought up that comment at various points of this season.

"We were like two weeks removed from the last game," said Allen. "I think it was just being in a championship cloud, being in that moment. We were just having a good time. It wasn't trash talk or nothing. I respect my opponent, but you've got to enjoy the good things that happen to you."

A little bad luck

When the Wizards arrived in Cleveland on Wednesday for their Christmas game against the Cavaliers, they came from Charlotte and brought with them their road blue uniforms. That created a problem, since the Cavaliers planned to wear their alternate blue jerseys to match James' new patent leather sneaker.

There obviously had been a communication breakdown somewhere along the line, and a Wizards staff member was sent back to Washington to gather up the home white jerseys and fly back to Cleveland on a commercial flight in time for the game.

Did he say that?

The way Philadelphia forward Andre Iguodala looks at it, the champion Celtics do a bit too much trash-talking for their own good.

"Everybody knows they won the championship," he said. "Everybody knows they're a great team. They try to go overboard with (the trash-talking) sometimes. Actually, it takes away from how good of a team they are, from the respect factor. Teams don't respect them as much because of that."

Rose draws raves

The play of Chicago Bulls rookie guard Derrick Rose has been drawing acclaim, most recently in Miami, where Dwyane Wade said Rose probably was more athletic than he was during his rookie season. Heat coach Eric Spoelstra also sees a resemblance between Rose now and Wade as a rookie.

"With the ball, (Rose) is as fast as anyone from end to end and he can get into the smallest of gaps like Dwyane can, in a crowd, and all of a sudden he'll emerge and he's at the rim," said Spoelstra. "He's got a real explosive gift."

Admiring Cheeks

Boston coach Doc Rivers is a longtime admirer of former Philadelphia coach Maurice Cheeks, one of several coaches who have been fired already this season. Rivers thinks Cheeks belongs in the Hall of Fame as a player and gives the impression that Cheeks should still be coaching the 76ers, especially since Philadelphia was trying to blend Elton Brand into the mix.

"It's tough when you make a lot of changes and then at the same time you hear how good you should be and you haven't had a chance to work with the changes," said Rivers. "Their changes were huge, too. They went from being this up-and-down team, changed the identity of the team in some ways, and that takes a long time to sell."

Where's the mailman?

Nets President Rod Thorn was slightly amused when, after Oklahoma City signed Nets free agent Nenad Krstic to an offer sheet, the Thunder flew a representative to New Jersey to hand deliver the documents to the Nets.

"I'm sure that's been done before," said Thorn. "But I can't really think of another time. I guess they were in a hurry."

Getting Eddy ready

Eddy Curry, New York's 300-pound center who has been rehabilitating a bone bruise in his left knee all season, may be getting close to playing in a game.

"He's close," said coach Mike D'Antoni. "I don't know what that means though. They say a couple weeks, starting practicing, then playing soon. But that may be wishful thinking."

Rumor has it that Curry may be headed for Charlotte in a trade involving Boris Diaw. Such a deal would reunite Curry with Bobcats coach Larry Brown, who had a mutual admiration when Brown coached in New York; and Diaw and D'Antoni, who were together in Phoenix.

Fast breaks

* Before this season's Cavaliers squad, the last teams to win their first 14 home games were the 1995-'96 Bulls and Magic.

* Dallas owner Mark Cuban, on a player he traded away, the Nets' Devin Harris: "Devin is turning into Allen Iverson with a great attitude."

* Teammates were jokingly calling Orlando's Keith Bogans "007" after he missed all seven of his shots with zero assists and zero free throws against Golden State.

* The Trail Blazers retired Bob Gross' jersey No. 30, two days after they retired Terry Porter's jersey No. 30.

* Minnesota's 6-foot-10 Kevin McHale is the league's first head coach standing 6-8 or taller since the end of the 2004-'05 season, when 6-11 Herb Williams was New York's interim coach.


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Added: December 28, 2008


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