Dec. 17, 2007 -- STATS goes inside the numbers and provides a weekly look at the most noteworthy boxscore happenings in the NBA. This is the seventh installment of the season, covering games from Dec. 10-16.

After getting outscored by an average of 3.4 points per game in 2006-07, this year’s Celtics are outscoring their opponents by an average margin of 14.2 points. Barring a collapse, Boston almost certainly will produce the greatest one-year improvement by any team since the introduction of the shot clock in 1954-55. The 17.6-point turnaround sits comfortably ahead of the next-best improvement, when the Larry Bird-led Celtics posted a 12.8-point turnaround (-5.0 to +7.8) in 1979-80.

Ray Allen still hasn’t missed from the free-throw line in the first (15-for-15), second (33-for-33) and third (21-for-21) quarters this season. Among players with a minimum of 15 attempts, Washington’s Caron Butler (19-for-19 in the first period) and Orlando’s Rashard Lewis (16-for-16 in the third period) are the only other players that have been perfect in any given quarter. However, Allen has proved mortal in the fourth period, when he’s missed nine of 31 free-throw attempts.

When Dwight Howard scored 31 points and grabbed 20 rebounds against the Grizzlies on Saturday, it was the second time this season he had totaled at least 30 points and 20 rebounds in the same game. Minnesota’s Al Jefferson is the only other player to accomplish the feat even once in 2007-08.

The Spurs (13-0) and Celtics (12-0) enter the week as the only teams still undefeated on their home courts. San Antonio’s record at the AT&T Center matches the number of games the 2002-03 Kings won before suffering their first home loss. The last teams to win more than their first 13 home games were the Bulls (37) and Magic (33), both in 1995-96. Those Bulls went on to win the NBA Championship.

Atlanta’s Josh Smith has now gone a full calendar year (beginning December 12, 2006) without failing to record a blocked shot in any game he’s played. His streak of 75 consecutive games with a blocked shot dwarfs the next-longest active streak (Marcus Camby, 18), and is the longest in the NBA since Dikembe Mutombo went 116 consecutive games with a blocked shot between January 20, 1995 and April 2, 1996.

Rookie Kevin Durant has led Seattle in scoring on 11 occasions this year. That’s a remarkable total for the franchise, considering that in the 16 seasons between 1991-92 and 2006-07, rookies had paced the Sonics in scoring just four times combined. All other 2007-08 rookies have led their respective teams in scoring in 12 games this year.

Another rookie making an impact is Atlanta’s Al Horford. In the games he’s started (17 as center, one as power forward), his opposing position player has averaged 8.3 points per game. That’s the lowest average versus any starter in the NBA (minimum 15 starts). And the .389 field-goal percentage by opposing starters is the lowest versus any frontcourt starter..

Even after missing six fourth quarters due to a sprained finger, LeBron James still leads the league with 176 points scored in the fourth period. James also enters the week as the only player whose field-goal percentage has increased each quarter (minimum 50 FGA each period). James’ accuracy has improved from .465 in the first period, to .474 in the second, .500 in the third, and to .518 in the fourth quarter.

The Bulls have gone 6-3 in their last nine games, during a stretch in which they’ve outscored their opponents in second-chance points in every game. The Bulls not only rank second in the league with an average of 15.4 second-chance points per game this season (Washington 15.9), they also lead the league in fewest second-chance points allowed (10.0), and in second-chance point differential (+5.4).