Updated: Feb. 14, 2007, 6:05 PM ET

For Celtics, the end is near

The first game I ever played in as a young aficionado of basketball came in a 44-2 CYO loss to St. Catherine's of Somerville, Mass. Jay Mahoney's long-distance banker saved the mighty orange and black of St. Peter's from the shutout. In a related note, the team I cheered for, the Boston Celtics, was also terrible, the dawn of the Larry Bird era not yet at hand.

I don't remember any other particular basket from those days, but the emotional memory of a lone, face-saving hoop by Jay hangs in there. Losing stinks that badly. And it's bad when the team you back reeks.

Jump ahead a generation. Losing still stinks. And Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers, canned 10 losses into the Orlando Magic's 19-game losing streak in 2003, has presided over plenty of defeats, 18 straight games now.

But at least it's ending. And no, it doesn't look like Rivers is getting his walking papers again.

Instead, a big "W" sits around the corner. There are few certainties in life, like long-distance Mahoney prayers, but I believe this is a sure thing: The streak will come to an end Wednesday when Milwaukee comes into Boston. It is imperative that the win comes now, since an approaching road trip has the potential to put the Celtics in the history books with a 24th straight loss. This would be a record for consecutive losses in a single season.

Motivation is one reason. The Celtics would like to stop being the subject of public ridicule. And Milwaukee, without its version of Paul Pierce, Michael Redd, is slouching around in a manner not quite as pathetic as Boston, but in the neighborhood (19-32). And the Bucks will be coming off a Tuesday night home game against Dallas.

So, while it's important to pile up the Boston "Ls" for primo draft position, it seems like doing something any normal fan should do, which is rooting for a win, is in order here. Don't want to scare Greg Oden or Kevin Durant out of the draft with record-setting awfulness, after all.

Losing is becoming a way of life. On Sunday, they lost 109-107 when, fittingly enough, they were sunk by Timberwolves guard Ricky Davis. The ex-Celtic stood like he was hailing a cab after hitting the winning shot.

Pierce looked good against the Wolves. In his second game back from a lengthy stint on the inactive list, he had 29 points in 32 minutes. Although his rise and endurance might need work, he reminded us why Boston is not completely terrible when he is on the court.

If Pierce keeps this up, the Celtics (12 wins) could pass Memphis (13), and the Sixers (17 wins) in the race for worst record. This would diminish ping-pong ball odds of getting the green mitts on the No. 1 or No. 2 pick in the draft, which should be Oden or Durant.

Pierce missed 24 games with a stress reaction in his left foot and an infection in his left elbow before returning Friday in a loss to the Nets. Because the Celtics' luck is so poor, his run of bad health is surely over and then the wins just might start to pile up. Two in a row is possible. But in order to end the losing ways for the long haul, the Celtics need to lose more.

If you dislike losing, then you need more losing. Very confusing.

The end against the Timberwolves was painful. Take this priceless sequence.

With 17.4 seconds left, the score tied at 105, Delonte West starts a halfcourt set. He feeds Pierce, who is half-heartedly doubled at the top of the key. He passes back to West, who penetrates into the lane, appears to have a clear shot, but looks for Brian Scalabrine open on the wing. Only West didn't see the 49-foot long arms of Kevin Garnett. Shot-clock violation.

Then with 3.6 seconds left, going for the win, the Timberwolves set up their inbounds play. Marko Jaric inbounded to Randy Foye, who drove the lane. Pierce tried to help, then Foye kicked it out to Davis, and that was that.

So, the streak rolls on. But just like the final buzzer of a 44-2 beating, an end comes. For Boston, it better come Wednesday.

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Mad Moon Rising
David Liam Kyle/NBAE via Getty Images
Cleveland Cavaliers mascot MoonDog faces off with a young fan of Kobe Bryant on Sunday at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland.

Examining Star Charts

Ready for the third ball of the season?

Relax, veterans.

This really only affects the six participants in the Foot Locker Three-Point Shootout -- and will only affect them on five of the 25 shots they hoist in each round -- but the famed "money" ball in the competition will not be leather.

I was mistaken Thursday when I wrote about this for the first time, because the money ball that the league has been using at All-Star Weekend for the past five years is also not the same as the microfiber ball that was used for the first two months of the regular season.

There are apparently various production obstacles that make it difficult to quickly manufacture a multi-colored leather ball or colorize the controversial composite model that was thrown out of the league on Jan. 1.

So defending champion Dirk Nowitzki, Gilbert Arenas and the other contestants in the 3-point contest will be shooting a different sort of man-made ball -- I'm told it will be red, yellow and navy in Las Vegas -- on their two-point, bonus-ball attempts.

See the full Marc Stein blog

No Routine, No Peace

LeBron James has struggled quite a bit this season at the free-throw line, which is ironic when you consider it's the one place where he does not have to face multiple sets of defenders.

His free-throw percentage has dropped from month to month, and for February he's down to 52.4 percent. (For the season, he's at 68.6 percent.)

The reason for his drop is fairly clear -- he's all over the place on his routine and release.

Complete David Thorpe story

Records At A Glance

Cav Raises

LeBron's Cavs Top Lakers, Kobe's 36

Wade's A Closer
Dwyane Wade
Eliot J. Schechter/Getty Images
Heat guard Dwyane Wade was armed and dangerous on Sunday, scoring 18 of his 26 points in the final period, leading Miami past San Antonio, 100-85.

Extreme Behavior
Luol Deng

Sunday's Best
Bulls forward Luol Deng: Playing the short-handed Suns, Deng matches teammate Kirk Hinrich's 29 points and hauls in 12 boards in Chicago's 116-103 win in Phoenix.

Bruce Bowen

Sunday's Worst
Spurs guard Bruce Bowen: Missing all five shots in 33 minutes is not enough even for a fearsome defender. The Heat take a 100-85 win. Agent Zero missing all eight 3-pointers a close second.

Quote of the Day
"That's like a dude saying he's going to punch you in your face."
-- Blazers guard Jarrett Jack on Gilbert Arenas' 50-point prediction. Agent Zero finished with nine points in a 94-73 defeat of the Wizards.

See how all 171 who played stacked up
Playoff matchups if season ended now

-- Andrew Ayres

Falling 41 Short
Chad Ford

Gilbert Arenas was held to nine points Sunday after promising 50 against Portland and coach Nate McMillan, who was on the staff that sent Arenas packing from the U.S. National Team.

Here's what the Zero hero wrote before the game on his always entertaining NBA.com blog:

"It's going to be more of a fun one because at the end of the day, they really do not want me to get 50 ... Nate's a tough guy so I know that there's going to be a lot or elbows and a lot of double teams so that will just leave stuff open for everybody else."

Wiz coach Eddie Jordan was not happy with Arenas' chafing at calls for tighter defense with Antawn Jamison out.

"We haven't found the answer for missing Antawn," said Jordan, who's waiting for some one to step up and fill the leadership void created by their injured captain. "We're searching. ... Leadership is a big thing for a team. We don't have leadership and we don't have guys who can make plays like Antawn makes plays. ... Frankly, we didn't have enough talent on the floor."

-- Andrew Ayres

Hey, Dr. J, Where'd You Get Those Moves?
February 13, 1977
Julius Erving, playing in his first NBA All-Star Game, was voted MVP following a 30-point, 12-rebound performance, despite his East team losing 125-124.

February 13, 2000
Shaquille O'Neal, Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett, the starting frontcourt of 7-footers for the West All-Stars, combined for 70 points and 33 rebounds as the West held off several strong challenges from the East to score a 137-126 victory before an energized crowd at The Arena in Oakland. O'Neal and Duncan shared MVP honors.

-- ESPN Research

Elias Says

Sasha Pavlovic led the Cavaliers with 21 points as they defeated the Lakers 99-90. Pavlovic has been Cleveland's high scorer in three of its past seven games, after averaging only 4.8 points per game prior to that. Pavlovic's 15.0 points-per-game average over that span (since Jan. 30) is the second-highest on the club, behind LeBron James (19.0).

The Lakers went 3-5 on their just-completed road trip, which was the club's longest since December 1989. San Antonio is the only other NBA team that's scheduled to play eight straight road games this season; the Spurs are 2-4 in the midst of their eight-game rodeo road trip. During the past five seasons (2001-02 through 2005-06), only seven NBA teams played at least eight straight games on the road; five of those teams posted a .500 or better record during their extended trip.

Elias Sports Bureau | More from Elias


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