The Celtics have been pegged to some lofty goals this season. Seventy-two wins? Probably not going to happen. The best defensive team in NBA history? Also unlikely.
The best road team ever? Maybe, just maybe.
With a 90-83 triumph over the Spurs Thursday in San Antonio, the Celtics improved to 8-1 on the road this season. With approximately 22 percent of its road schedule complete, Boston is on pace to post a 36-5 mark (87.8 percent), which would easily shatter the NBA record for road winning percentage held by the 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers (31-7, 81.6 percent).
The Celtics have won the first three games of their first prolonged road trip of the season. Their biggest challenge comes Friday in the final game of the trip in Oklahoma City, where a fresh-legged and youthful Thunder squad awaits a Boston team playing the second half of a tough back-to-back.
The Celtics' only road loss this season came on the second night of a back-to-back against the Pacers in Indiana.
"We're going to have to muster it up from somewhere," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers. "We spent some minutes tonight, it wasn't bad, but some guys played high minutes. Listen, we have to get it somewhere. They're not going to get it from me."
Boston matched the Lakers' win total while posting a 31-10 mark on the road during their 2007-08 championship season. The 1971-72 Lakers won 16 consecutive road games en route to that best winning percentage in NBA history. They, too, won an NBA championship that season.
A handful of other notes from the Celtics' win over the Spurs Thursday night:
Rondo does it at both ends: Rajon Rondo's stat line does a good job telling the story of his quality night: 12 points, 12 assists, 6 rebounds, 3 steals and a block to complement a team-best plus-16 in the plus/minus category. But Rondo's contributions down the stretch were especially key.
With the Celtics clinging to a four-point lead with two minutes to play, Rondo pulled up and drilled an elbow jumper to add to the cushion. Later, with Tony Parker driving to the basket and the Spurs looking to make it a one-possession game, Rondo got his hand on the ball. Credited with a block, the ball then ticked off Parker and rolled out of bounds, giving the Celtics the ball with an 87-83 advantage and 18 seconds to go.
"When he steps into his shot, he's a good shooter," Rivers said of Rondo. "When he thinks about his shot, he's not; I don't think anyone is, for that matter. I told you guys earlier, for the point guard position, the toughest shot to make is the open one, because you're still thinking about passing. You've got to get to the point -- and he will -- where he thinks, 'I'm open, this is my shot and I'm taking it.' The shot he took down stretch [Thursday], that was in his mind. He stepped up to take that shot and there was no passing on that shot."
Short bench: Forward Shelden Williams did not play as Rivers shortened his rotation to nine players, leaning on Brian Scalabrine and Rasheed Wallace to spell the frontcourt starters. Kevin Garnett (20 points) logged 35 minutes 13 seconds of action, his longest stint of the season outside of Boston's win in Minnesota (35:18).
Quiet fourth: The Celtics registered only six fourth-quarter field goals, including three in the final nine minutes (two of which came from Rondo). Boston finished with 16 points in the period, tying its lowest fourth-quarter output of the season. The Celtics also registered 16 fourth-quarter points in a loss to Atlanta.
Glass half full: While the Celtics were lucky to emerge with the victory, they were dominated on the glass. San Antonio boasted a whopping 55-32 rebounding advantage overall. What's more, the Spurs finished with 20 offensive rebounds, while Boston registered a measly two.
Loose balls: Paul Pierce had a rare game without double figures for points. The captain connected on 2 of 9 shots for eight points ... Rasheed Wallace chipped in 13 points off the bench, hitting a pair of 3-pointers. The Celtics are now 10-0 when Wallace hits at least two trifectas ... Antonio McDyess, one of the Spurs' big free-agent acquisitions this offseason, didn't score and finished with a team-worst minus-14 in plus/minus. Rookie DeJuan Blair picked up the slack for San Antonio with 18 points on 9-of-11 shooting, 11 rebounds and a team-best plus-12 in plus/minus ... Keith Bogans was another scoreless starter for the Spurs; Boston's starters outscored San Antonio's 64-39 ... The Spurs committed 17 turnovers, aiding the Celtics' cause ... Boston matched its longest winning streak of the season at six games.