A lot of basketball needs to be played before it's learned whether today's Celtics could run with the Bulls' 72-victory team of 13 seasons ago. But by running past the Bulls on Friday night, these Celtics did something Michael Jordan's old squad didn't do by moving one victory shy of tying the best start in NBA history.
The Celtics' 126-108 rout over the Bulls at TD Banknorth Garden pushed their record to a franchise-best 25-2 start.
The Celtics also tied the second-longest winning streak in franchise history with 17 straight victories to match the 1959-60 squad. A New York triumph also would tie Boston with the 1981-82 squad for the longest winning streak in franchise history.
With the Bulls in town, it was inevitable that talk about whether the Celtics could challenge the 72-win NBA record came up.
"It's still early," said former Bulls center Bill Wennington, now a team radio broadcaster. "You have to wait until after the All-Star break. It's a long season. If you look at our 72-10 season, nobody got hurt.
"Going into the All-Star break we only lost two or three games. After the All-Star break it got harder."
When asked about the Bulls' 72-game record, Celtics forward Kevin Garnett said: "Our mentality has always been since last year to take it one game at a time."
The Celtics also set several other marks of note.
Center Kendrick Perkins scored a career-high 25 points while grabbing eight rebounds. Boston scored a season-high in points, eclipsing a previous high of 122 set two previous times. The Celtics earned season-highs in field goals made (50) and assists (40) while only shooting 17 total free throws.
Boston also tied the 1985-86 Celtics (41-1 at home) with the best home start at 15-1.
"Great team, great shooters, great big men," said Bulls rookie guard Derrick Rose, who had 14 points and five assists. "That's what they're supposed to do."
The Bulls allowed 34 points off turnovers and gave up a Celtics season-high 41 points in the third quarter. Forward Drew Gooden only played 5 minutes and 50 seconds because of a sprained right ankle he suffered in the first quarter while Luol Deng scored a team-high 19 points with seven rebounds. Andres Nocioni added 16 off the bench.
The Bulls never had a lead after 41-40 and were down as many as 22 points. The Bulls, also playing without Tyrus Thomas (concussion), did shoot 50.6 percent from the field and nail 11 three-pointers.
Boston finished the first half with a 57-55 lead after shooting 58.1 percent from the field.
"We were down two at the half, we felt pretty good about that even though we gave up too many points," Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro said. "We tried to push the tempo a little bit in the third, but they knocked us out a little bit."
Boston finished the third with a commanding 98-82 lead after shooting 75 percent.
"I thought we did a good job in the first half, sticking around and keeping it close," Bulls guard Ben Gordon said. "We tried to give them a little resistance, but we just didn't have enough manpower."
Despite a blizzard in the area, the Celtics announced a sellout crowd of 18,624, including the world's fastest man, Olympic gold medalist Usain Bolt.