The Philadelphia 76ers have come closer than anyone to knocking off the Celtics during Boston's 13-game winning streak.
While that may have been Philadelphia at its best, its latest game certainly represented the worst.
Boston looks to extend the NBA's longest run of success this season Wednesday night against the visiting 76ers, who will have a 45-point defeat fresh in their minds as they look to avenge their last-second loss to the Celtics.
The Celtics (22-4) have rarely been tested during their 13 consecutive victories, shooting 52.1 percent and winning by more than five points all but three times.
Boston shot 55.9 percent at Philadelphia on Dec. 9, but still had to sweat out its ninth straight win. Kevin Garnett banked in a shot off Rajon Rondo's alley-oop pass with 1.4 seconds left to lift the Celtics to a 102-101 victory.
"What a heartbreaking loss," 76ers coach Doug Collins said. "They have so many different ways that they can attack on the offensive end. ... It would have been an incredible win for us."
Rondo finished with 19 points and 14 assists, but he won't be around for the rematch. The NBA assist leader has missed Boston's last two games with a sprained left ankle and might be out until early January.
The Celtics got Shaquille O'Neal back in the lineup Sunday against Indiana after a four-game absence, but Paul Pierce stole the show. The eight-time All-Star had 18 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds in a 99-88 win -- his first triple-double since March 8, 2006, against Philadelphia.
Pierce has 22 assists in the two games without Rondo as Boston has averaged 25.5 -- just 0.4 fewer than what it produces when Rondo is in the lineup.
"We're putting (Pierce) in Rondo's spot, and making him the facilitator," coach Doc Rivers said. "With this team, especially with the injuries we have, he's been a great utility guy."
Boston might get another big man back Wednesday. Jermaine O'Neal has missed 18 consecutive games while recovering from left knee soreness, but is back practicing and says he's "50/50" to face Philadelphia.
The Sixers (11-17) won their last visit to Boston, 98-97 on Dec. 18, 2009, behind 23 points from Elton Brand, but their eight-game road trip took a disastrous turn Tuesday. Philadelphia let Chicago shoot 64.5 percent from the field at the United Center, falling behind by as many as 51 points in a 121-76 Bulls romp.
Collins, though, seemed remarkably composed after watching the Sixers' worst loss since they fell 124-74 at Houston on March 18, 2007.
"In the NBA you're going to have games like this, it just happens," said Collins, whose team had won eight of 11. "It'll be easier tomorrow. Our effort will be better tomorrow. We were just discombobulated on offense tonight. I didn't recognize us out there. I didn't even know what plays we were running."
The key to Philadelphia's success, however, seems to be on the defensive end. The 76ers are 9-0 when they hold their opponent under 41.5 percent from the field. They're 2-17 if a team shoots better than that mark, though they did nearly knock off the Celtics despite Boston's exceptionally good shooting.
Philadelphia could use some more production from Jrue Holiday if it's going to pull off the upset. Holiday has averaged 9.5 points and shot 31.1 percent in four career starts against the Celtics, and he's been awful lately -- shooting 23.5 percent and scoring in single digits in the Sixers' last three games.