Trying to Make it Official

Starting with a season-opening eight-game winning streak, the Boston Celtics haven't left much doubt as to which team would win the Atlantic Division.

They can make it official on Friday.

The Celtics, riding their first 10-game win streak in nearly 22 years, would clinch the division title and complete their worst-to-first metamorphosis with a win over the visiting Utah Jazz.

Oddsmakers from SBG Global have made Boston –7.5 point spread favorites (NBA Odds) for today’s game, the over/under has been set at 204.5 total points (Matchup). Our public betting information shows that 79% of bets for this game have been placed on Utah +7.5 (View NBA Bet Percentages).

Boston (51-12) had a four-game lead in the division eight games into the season, and a 12 1/2-game edge by Jan. 6. The Celtics currently are 17 1/2 games ahead of the second-place Toronto Raptors with 19 games to play and hold the tiebreaker after winning the season series 3-1.

Last season, they finished 24-58 - last in the Atlantic and 23 games behind the division-winning Raptors. Boston last won a division title in 2004-05, but that team finished with six fewer wins than this season's club has compiled.

The last time the Celtics won 10 in a row was a 14-game run late in the 1985-86 season, when they captured the franchise's 16th and most recent NBA championship. After twice winning nine straight earlier this season, the Celtics extended their current run to double digits with a 111-82 blowout of Seattle on Wednesday.

"We are talking more than ever and we feel connected," Boston's Kevin Garnett said. "Any team can beat you in this league, but confidence-wise we are strong 1 to 12 and that is a rarity."

Garnett and Ray Allen each had 18 points while Paul Pierce added 14 and 11 assists against the Sonics. The Celtics also showcased their depth, with each of their 12 active players logging at least 13 minutes, including Sam Cassell, who had his first six points with Boston in his second game with the club.

But it was Boston's defense that caught Seattle coach P.J. Carlesimo's attention. The Celtics have allowed fewer than 90 points in five of their last six games, allowing an average of 86.0 over that span while holding opponents to 36.0 percent from the field.

"People talk about the Celtics' offense, but if anything they are a better defensive team," Carlesimo said. "There aren't that many teams close to them defensively."

The Celtics also won their 11th straight home game, moving to 29-4 this season at the TD Banknorth Garden.

Utah is the only team with a better home record this season, but the Celtics were one of just three teams to defeat the Jazz in Salt Lake City - 104-98 on Dec. 29.

The Jazz (43-23) have struggled to a 15-20 record on the road, and they barely avoided consecutive road defeats to losing teams with a 114-110 win at Milwaukee on Wednesday. They had lost 108-96 in Chicago on Tuesday.

"We have had that problem all season," guard Deron Williams said. "Sometimes we play down, and it's something we can't do. We've got to attack everybody like they're the best team in the league because right now we can't afford any more losses. You see how tough the West is. Teams aren't losing right now."

The Jazz, who've won six of seven overall, lead the Northwest Division by four games over Denver, and they're one of eight teams within five games of the Western Conference lead.

Against the Bucks, Williams had 26 points and 13 assists - his ninth straight double-double - while Carlos Boozer had 20 points and 11 rebounds, bouncing back from a 5-of-14 shooting performance against the Bulls.

By: Marc Young - theSpread.com - Email Us

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