BOSTON -- Winning streaks are nice and all, but Kevin Garnett prefers something more tangible -- like a championship ring.
"Unless you win it all, it's pretty much steam in the air: You see it, and then it evaporates," Garnett said after scoring 18 points to lead the Boston Celtics to a franchise-record 19th consecutive victory, 110-91 over the Philadelphia 76ers on Tuesday night.
The Celtics will go for 20 in a row against the Los Angeles Lakers on Christmas Day in a rematch of last spring's NBA Finals, which Boston won in six games for its unprecedented 17th league title. The crowd couldn't wait, chanting "Beat L.A!" with 5:27 left to play against the Sixers.
"I totally appreciate the whole history of the Lakers and Celtics and the tradition, the players who've come through both teams, the foundations of this league," Garnett said. "But to put all the eggs in one basket on one game, or that we circle it ... we circle all the games, and if you're on the schedule we don't decline any shows."
Rajon Rondo also scored 18, Kendrick Perkins had eight points and 11 rebounds, and Ray Allen had 16 points as the Celtics starters watched from the bench while reserves Leon Powe and Eddie House helped expand the lead in the fourth quarter. Boston improved to 27-2 -- the best start for a two-loss team in NBA history.
The 19-game winning streak broke the franchise set by the original Big Three in 1981-82.
"Do we get anything for winning 19 in a row? A new car? If so, let me know," Paul Pierce said. "Has any other Boston Celtics team lost 18 in a row? I've been there."
Sixers forward Andre Iguodala complained about the Celtics' trash-talking and warned them to heed the lesson set by another confident Boston team that won 18 straight before losing No. 19.
"Something like the Patriots. They were undefeated and lost in the finals," Iguodala said of the NFL team that lost in the Super Bowl after a season of running up the score. "Everyone knows they [the Celtics] won a championship and everyone knows they're a great team. It takes away from the feat. Teams don't respect that."
The "Beat L.A!" chant became popular in the '80s when Larry Bird, Robert Parish and Kevin McHale seemed to play the Lakers for the title every year. It made a comeback last spring when the Celtics eliminated Los Angeles in six games to win their unprecedented 17th title.
Now the Lakers stand in the way of another bit of NBA history: A 20th win in a row would move the Celtics past Los Angeles' 1999-2000 team and into a tie for the third-longest winning streak in league history. The 1971-72 Lakers won 33 in a row, the NBA record.
"I know it's great and all that stuff, but we didn't get our hands in and say 'Hip! Hip! Hooray!" Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. "No one even mentioned it. We just want to keep playing, and keep winning. And we want to try to keep getting better."
The Celtics led by 14 at the half and 22, 74-52, with 4:32 left in the third before the Sixers ran off 10 points in a row. But Powe pitched in with nine of the first 11 points in the fourth quarter, and the Celtics took a 95-74 on House's jumper with 6:17 to go.
House hit three 3-pointers in the fourth quarter, one of them a meaningless jumper at the buzzer.
The Sixers went 0-for-11 from 3-point range and are 0-for-19 in the last two games.
New England Patriots linebacker Junior Seau watched the game from courtside. ... Celtics F Glen "Big Baby" Davis, who was injured in a car accident on his way to Sunday's game, missed his second straight game and watched from the bench in street clothes. ... Tony DiLeo fell to 3-2 since taking over from Maurice Cheeks as Sixers coach. He also picked up his first technical foul.
- Eddie F. Rush
- Luis Grillo
- Pat Fraher