By ROBERT LEE
Journal Sports Writer
BOSTON - The Celtics wil become the first team to reach the midway point of the season tonight when they play their 41st game of the season against the New Jersey Nets.
With their grueling first half of the season over, the Celtics will now get three full months to play their remaining 41 games which is something that Boston coach Doc Rivers is very happy about.
"It will help us big," Rivers said. "We've played 41 games and the Cavs have played 36. It was just a tough beginning for us. We played a lot of games squeezed into a short time. Now we get from this point on until the rest of the season to play 41 more games and that will be great for us.
"For me it will be great if we could rest but more importantly we get practice time the rest of this year. There is a stretch in February where it's tough but other than that, we get to practice the rest of the season and that will make us a much better basketball team."
The defending world champions own the fourth-best record in the NBA (31-9), but they would like to capture the best record by the time the season ends. Even so, Rivers is happy with where the Celtics are at right now under the circumstances.
"We have a great record," Rivers said. "Our young guys are improving. I think our bench has been up and down but I think it has shown improvement. Before the year, if someone would have said, `your record is where it's at,' I wouldn't complain about it so yeah I'm happy."
So are his players.
"We have a pretty good record, especially with the amount of games we played in the time span," Boston guard Rajon Rondo said. "We hit a tough stretch here and I'm hoping that we are over it."
Rondo doesn't expect things to get easier even though their games will be more spaced out during the second half of the season.
"I don't think it will get easier, I just think we have to prepare better, mentally," Rondo said. "Not that we didn't in those games, but we had tough stretches and we needed to get over the hump and just handle adversity. Things are going to go perfect throughout the entire season. We won 19 in a row but we lost seven out of nine. It's part of the NBA season and hopefully we'll never go through another stretch like that the rest of the year."