With 30 wins, Celtics aim to match past greats

Boston Celtics point guard Kyrie Irving driving to the basket despite the attention of Brooklyn Nets guard Caris LeVert during their 108-105 win at the TD Garden on Sunday. Celtics' Irving was the outstanding player for the home team with 28 points,
Boston Celtics point guard Kyrie Irving driving to the basket despite the attention of Brooklyn Nets guard Caris LeVert during their 108-105 win at the TD Garden on Sunday. Celtics' Irving was the outstanding player for the home team with 28 points, and his efforts were matched by a strong contribution from the Celtics bench.PHOTO: REUTERS

BOSTON • It was not easy, but the Boston Celtics managed to turn back the clock to a special time in franchise history on Sunday.

Boston held off the feisty Brooklyn Nets 108-105 in the National Basketball Association (NBA) to improve to 30-10 for the season, with the franchise reaching 30 wins at the earliest date since 1964-65.

In fact, it was the third-earliest arrival at 30 wins in team history. The 1959-60 team got there on Dec 28, with the 1964-65 group on Dec 30.

Both of those teams went on to win the NBA title.

And now, the first try at win No. 31 comes with the visit of the Cleveland Cavaliers tomorrow night (Thursday, Singapore time).

"Really, really tough task (against the Cavs), obviously," Celtics coach Brad Stevens said after his team failed to hit a field goal for the final 4min 27sec on Sunday but still hung on for the victory.

"They've had everybody's number in the East for a couple of years now, and we're among that list. So we'll see, we'll see whatever Wednesday (brings)."

The final day of the calendar year almost brought pain as the Celtics had to repel the Nets (13-23) on four different occasions.

Celtics' Kyrie Irving registered his 11th straight 20-point game, scoring 28 points and grabbing eight rebounds.

"You've got to give credit to just how talented that team is," Irving said of the Nets.

"They play extremely hard for all 48 minutes. Well-coached, and he (Kenny Atkinson) gives them the utmost confidence and freedom to play to their strengths.

"A few great takeaways from this game but especially down the stretch. We've just got to close out better."

Marcus Morris finished with 15 points off the Celtics bench. Terry Rozier, another reserve, had 14 points, seven rebounds and three assists.

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson led the Nets with 22 points and 12 rebounds. Caris LeVert, playing his second consecutive strong game off the bench despite a hip pointer, had 16 points, seven assists and six rebounds.

The Nets, ending a 1-4 road trip, trailed 84-98 with 5min 59sec left but could have tied it when Spencer Dinwiddie fired up a long bomb off an inbounds pass with 14.5sec left that did not come close.

"I think it was open, I think he could've gotten closer," Nets coach Atkinson said.

"It was longer than we wanted but it was an open catch and shoot. Wish it was a little closer."

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 02, 2018, with the headline 'With 30 wins, Celtics aim to match past greats'. Print Edition | Subscribe