x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Age no barrier for Boston Celtics

Experience is proving an asset for Boston as they top the Eastern Conference having won 10 consecutive games.

Paul Pierce, centre with Rajesh Rondo, left, and Glen Davis, right, is one of a number of players in the Boston Celtics side, who lead the Eastern Conference, over the age of 30. Streeter Lecka / Getty Images
Paul Pierce, centre with Rajesh Rondo, left, and Glen Davis, right, is one of a number of players in the Boston Celtics side, who lead the Eastern Conference, over the age of 30. Streeter Lecka / Getty Images

They do not stoop when they walk. Nor do they huddle around a warm fire and moan about their creaky joints.

The Boston Celtics just seem older than the pyramids. Of course, it seemed that way last season when they went 30-28 over the last two-third of the season. Too old, too tired, too far past their primes.

Then the Celtics stormed through the play-offs, failing to win their 18th NBA championship only when the Los Angeles Lakers rallied from a 14-point deficit to win Game 7 in the title series.

After that, they got older, signing Shaquille O'Neal, 38, and Jermaine O'Neal, 32, while the Miami were reinventing NBA superstardom and Orlando appeared a young team still on the rise.

But here come the Celtics, again, having won 10 consecutive games, to lead the Heat and the Magic and every one else in the Eastern Conference with a 19-4 record.

If they have a few extra lines across their foreheads or have lost an inch of jumping power, they still look to have championship potential, led by Paul Pierce (33), Ray Allen (35), Kevin Garnett (34) and the O'Neals. If anything, they seem more focused than ever.

"I think there's a lot of chips on a lot of guys' shoulders, and I think that stems from Game 7 of the finals," Pierce said. "We feel like regardless of how our regular season went, we had an opportunity to win another championship.

"With the group that we have in here, you know, everybody's saying this is a Hall of Fame group. We feel like we've got to win multiple championships to be classified with the rest of the great Celtic championship teams."

Mixed with the veterans are a pair of young players making their mark. Rajon Rondo, the point guard, leads the NBA with 14.1 assists per game. Glenn Davis is having a breakthrough season; his scoring is up to 11.5 points per game this season from 6.3 last.

The two O'Neals and Garnett give the Celtics an imposing inside presence. And still to come this season is the centre Kendrick Perkins, after knee surgery.

All that size inside has led to a pair of victories in as many tries against the Heat and helped the Celtics limit opponents to 92.3 points per game.

The addition of the playful Shaquille O'Neal seems to have lifted the fun factor. Until it is time to step on court and get serious. "I was concerned that we went from competition to entertainment," Doc Rivers, the coach, said.

"And we want to make sure we keep this as a competitive thing. It's always got to be about the competition. It can't be about the show. And I think our guys have done a very good job of that thus far."

sports@thenational.ae

Review

Players of the week

• Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas At 32, the German seems to be better than ever. He averaged 25.7 point and 9.0 rebounds while shooting 70 per cent as the Mavericks went 3-0 last week.
• Amare Stoudemire, New York The Knicks’ forward, below, has scored at least 30 points in seven consecutive games.?Teams of the week
• Miami Look who is living to the hype. After a 9-8 start, the Heat have won eight straight, and the league is nervous about what they are suddenly capable of.
• Dallas The Mavericks are the NBA’s hottest team, having won 12 consecutive games, and are tied with the Celtics for the second-best record in the league.

Duds of the week
• Ron Artest, LA Lakers His slide continues. He averaged 5.3 points last week while making only six of 24 shots. His scoring is a career-low 7.8 points per game.
• Golden State After a 7-4 start, the Warriors have dropped 11 of 12, including all four games last week as their slump begins to look serious.

Preview

Games of the week
• Boston at New York (Wednesday) There should be plenty of excitement aheadwhen streaking teams collide. The Celtics have won 10 consecutive games, the Knicks seven so something will have to give when these two teams meet.
• San Antonio at Denver (Thursday) The Spurs have the league’s best record (19-3), the Nuggets are tied for the best home record (10-1) so this should be a thriller.