The Boston Celtics hadn't been challenged very often during the first eight games of their winning streak, but had to go down to the wire to push it to nine.
Based on their recent history against the Charlotte Bobcats, they shouldn't have much trouble extending it to 10.
The Celtics beat the Bobcats three times last season by an average of 25 points, dominance they'd love to see continue Saturday night at Time Warner Cable Arena.
Boston (18-4) won its eight games from Nov. 22-Dec. 8 by an average of 14.2 points, but hardly had an easy time Thursday in Philadelphia.
The Celtics have been remarkably efficient shooting the ball during the streak, making 52.6 percent, and they made their most significant attempt count against the 76ers. Kevin Garnett banked in a shot off Rajon Rondo's alley-oop pass with 1.4 seconds left to lift Boston to a 102-101 win.
"It was a gutsy win," Paul Pierce said. "It didn't seem like we had it all night. We couldn't get really consistent momentum in the game or get a consistent flow. But good teams find a way to win. There was good execution down the stretch."
The Celtics shot 55.9 percent against Philadelphia, but one reason for their consistently impressive percentage is the number of easy looks they're creating. Boston has averaged 48.4 points in the paint during the streak and is outscoring its opponents inside by 15.1 per game during that stretch.
Prior to the winning streak, the Celtics were averaging a 7.7-point edge in the paint.
"I keep saying that it's going to be scary when we get healthy," Pierce said. "If we continue to win with the bodies that we're putting out there -- I really can't wait for February and March when we're healthy."
O'Neal missed Thursday's game won't be available Saturday, but Boston might not need him. The Celtics held the Bobcats (8-14) to 76.3 points per game in dominating the teams' three meetings last season, which included a 92-59 thrashing on Oct. 28.
Charlotte hasn't been able to string together any sort of consistency this season, and that's largely because of its struggles on the road. The Bobcats dropped their sixth straight away from home Friday, falling 100-92 at Indiana.
"I think our biggest problem is we don't trust each other," coach Larry Brown said. "The ball never leaves one side. If you don't move the ball, you don't move your man."
Things have been much better at home, where Charlotte has won three in a row and five of six behind 22.0 points per game from Stephen Jackson and 16.7 from Tyrus Thomas.
Thomas, however, missed Friday's loss with a sore left quadriceps. He's questionable to face the Celtics, and that's bad news for the Bobcats. They're 5-3 when he scores 12 points or more and 3-11 when he scores 11 or fewer or doesn't play.
Charlotte is 3-13 when it fails to shoot at least 49.0 percent.