The Boston Celtics "Big Three" looks like it might need to make room for a fourth. Although the season is young, the Celtics also look intent on making room for an 18th championship banner in the rafters of TD Banknorth Garden.
Red-hot point guard Rajon Rondo and the surging Celtics go for their season-best seventh straight win Friday night when they host the Atlantic Division rival Philadelphia 76ers.
Oddsmakers from SBG Global have made Celtics –9 point spread favorites (NBA Odds) for today's game, the over/under has been set at 187 (View Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 68% of bets for this game have been placed on Celtics –9 (View NBA Bet Percentages).
Boston (14-2) owns an identical record to what it had at this point in 2007-08, when it finished 66-16 en route to its record 17th NBA championship. The current Celtics have sandwiched a pair of six-game winning streaks around a Nov. 14 loss to Denver. They've also posted their highest point totals of the season in their last two games, following a 118-103 victory at Toronto on Sunday with a 119-111 win over Golden State at home Wednesday night.
The veteran "Big Three" of Ray Allen (25 points), Kevin Garnett (21) and Paul Pierce (21) all made major contributions against the Warriors, but the biggest factor may have been the continued emergence of Rondo. The 22-year-old point guard sparked the offense with a season-high 22 points and seven assists, and added eight rebounds while helping the Celtics rally from a 14-point second-half deficit.
"I think when he's on like he's on tonight, we're unbeatable,'' Pierce said of Rondo. "With me, Kevin (Garnett) and Ray (Allen) on a night in, night out basis, Rajon is now starting to develop that consistency as a player.''
Since turning in consecutive two-point efforts in the middle of this month, Rondo has taken his game to a new level. He's averaging 16.6 points and 6.2 assists in Boston's last five wins while shooting 55.7 percent (34-for-61) from the field. He didn't commit a single turnover in Wednesday's victory.
"We know the kid has a lot of toughness in him,'' Garnett said. "He plays very, very hard. Like Paul said, we rode him the whole second half. He started it and we just fed off it.''
While the Celtics are surging, the 76ers (7-8) have been inconsistent, without a winning or losing streak of longer than three games. They'd won five of six through Sunday, but fell 93-84 at Charlotte on Monday and lost 96-94 at home to Orlando on Wednesday.
Elton Brand scored 17 of his 21 points in the second half against the Magic as Philadelphia came back from an early 12-point deficit, but the rally came up short as Rashard Lewis made a game-winning 3-pointer with 4.7 seconds left.
"That was a tough loss for us, going down the stretch like that,'' 76ers coach Maurice Cheeks said. "We had made plays up to that point. The way we played tonight was the way we need to play night in and night out.''
Philadelphia's offense has been anemic of late, failing to score more than 96 points in any of the last five games and shooting 41.5 percent from the field in the last four. The Sixers have scored fewer than 90 points eight times in 15 games, going 2-6 in those contests.
Boston took three of four games in last season's series, but Philadelphia won the most recent matchup 95-90 at TD Banknorth Garden on March 24, when Andre Iguodala had 28 points to lead all scorers.