The last time the Boston Celtics started 15-2 and featured one of the league's most dominant trios, they won the NBA title. With the same record through 17 games in 2007-08 and three All-Stars in the lineup, Boston thinks that same goal is within reach.

The Celtics look for their fifth win in a row and 16th in 18 games Friday night when they host the Toronto Raptors, who have already given Boston a stern test this season.

When the 1985-86 Celtics started 15-2 on their way to a 67-win season, they featured three future Hall of Famers in Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish. The 2007-08 club has been nothing short of dominant with Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce leading the way to form one of the league's best trios. Each averages at least 19.5 points and they combine for 60.1 per game.

Boston hasn't yet been beaten at home, with its only losses coming in down-to-the-wire road games at Orlando and Cleveland. One of the Celtics' few nervous moments in a victory came at Toronto on Nov. 4, when they needed a 3-pointer from Ray Allen with just seconds remaining to defeat the Raptors 98-95.

That game was one of just three Boston wins by fewer than 10 points. Ten is also the exact margin by which they've won their last three games - home victories against Miami and Cleveland, followed by a 113-103 win at Philadelphia on Wednesday.

Garnett scored 22 points and Pierce added 19 and 12 assists, though Allen struggled, shooting 3-for-12 from the field and managing just 12 points. But James Posey and Eddie House combined for 32 points off the bench - including seven 3-pointers.

"You've got to have role players to have a good team,'' Celtics coach Doc Rivers said after Boston's reserves outscored the Philadelphia bench 46-26.

Following a three-game winning streak, Toronto (10-9) has lost two of three amidst a recent rash of injuries.

All-Star center Chris Bosh has missed the last four games after straining his groin in a win over Memphis on Nov. 28. Bosh is still unable to run at full speed, but said days of stretching exercises have strengthened him.

Another big man, seven-footer Andrea Bargnani, has missed two games with a hyperextended left knee.

The status of both players is unknown for Friday.

Point guard T.J. Ford, who has been dealing with an arm injury, returned to the lineup Wednesday against Phoenix and made his presence felt, scoring 27 points in just 23 minutes off the bench.

"I thought he was good," Raptors coach Sam Mitchell said. "He played with no fear and he didn't hesitate."

However, the Raptors allowed the Suns to shoot 59 percent from the field and lost 136-123.

"The (3-pointers) killed us and the lay-ups killed us," Mitchell said. "We knew we could score but we just have to get up on guys. Our transition defense was just horrible."

The Raptors have lost eight of their last nine visits to Boston.


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