Despite getting off to one of the best starts in NBA history, the Boston Celtics realized after their last game that they still have some work to do.
The Celtics look to bounce back from their first home loss of the season when they host the Chicago Bulls on Friday.
Boston (20-3) lost 87-85 to Detroit on Wednesday in a matchup of the top teams in the Eastern Conference. Pistons guard Chauncey Billups hit two free throws with a tenth of a second left after drawing a foul on a pump fake.
"I think this game, we wanted to measure and see actually where we were," said Boston forward Kevin Garnett, who had 26 points and 12 rebounds. "Regardless of their record, this is one of the better teams in the league. If we're going to be of any substance, we're going to have to go through Detroit and some other teams."
With Garnett and Ray Allen joining resident star Paul Pierce in Boston during the offseason, the Celtics, who finished last in the East in 2006-07, became instant contenders. Their 20-2 start matched the second best in NBA history, tying the 1963-64 Celtics, who went on to win the NBA title.
Boston's 12-0 start at home was second in franchise history to the 1957-58 team, which won its first 17 on its own court.
Wednesday's loss, however, showed that the Celtics still have room for improvement.
"We've got a lot of work to do obviously," said Pierce, who shot 5-for-16 from the floor Wednesday and finished with 11 points - well below his team-high 20.5 average. "It's a long season; we'd rather take our bumps and bruises now than come late in the season."
The Celtics did get back Allen, who had missed the previous two games with a sore right ankle. He played nearly 39 minutes and had 24 points, including a tying 3-pointer with 18.9 seconds to play.
The Celtics won 92-81 on Dec. 8 in Chicago in the teams' first meeting this season, ending an eight-game losing streak to the Bulls (9-14). Chicago, however, has won four straight in Boston.
The Bulls have won three of their last five, including Wednesday's 95-84 victory at Washington. Ben Gordon scored 22 points and Luol Deng had 20 for Chicago, which has gone 3-1 in its last four road games to improve to 4-8 away from the United Center.
The Bulls were without center Ben Wallace, who missed his first game of the season with a sore left foot. Wallace, who said before the game that the foot had been bothering him for a while, had an MRI on Wednesday that showed he doesn't have a stress fracture.
Still, coach Scott Skiles expected Wallace to miss practice Thursday, and was not sure how long he would be out.
"Just got to play it by ear," Wallace said.
Rookie center Aaron Gray helped pick up the slack Wednesday, coming off the bench to post career highs in points (10), rebounds (10), assists (five) and minutes (29).
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