Celtics

And it's on to LA

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And it's on to LA

LOS ANGELES For the first half of the first game of the second half of their season, the Celtics looked like that team.

You know that team. You love that team.

Early on, Boston pushed the ball last night in Denver. They moved the ball. They helped each other, trusted each other and were unselfish almost to a fault. They built a nine-point, second-quarter lead on the heavily-favored Nuggets, and as usual, it was beautiful.

But it didn't stick. Before long, Denver's younger, larger, deeper and more athletic roster wore down the Celtics attack. The Nuggets cut the lead to one by halftime, led by eight after three, and fought off a late Celtics comeback to pick up a 97-90 revenge victory.

And to that I say: Oh well.

What are you going do to?

On one hand, yeah this is a game the Celtics could have won. I mean, the score was tied with five minutes left, of course they could have won. Maybe even should have won. But before we get too bent out of shape, it's worth remembering that the Nuggets are a damn good team.

Despite their earlier loss to the Boston and their three straight losses overall the Nuggets are 34-21. They're the fifth seed in the West, but they'd have the second best record in the East. And last night, they were playing in front of their always impressive crowd, which was particularly rabid thanks to the losing streak and the fact that this was Denver's first home game since February 7.

It probably sounds like I'm making excuses for the Celtics here, and I probably I am, but they were nine-point underdogs last night. The Nuggets are 22-3 at home! A loss sucks, but it's still OK. To be honest, I'm just happy that Boston put themselves in a position to win at all. That unlike what we saw for most of the first few months they're in a position to win every game. That it appears they're done taking nights off and always ready to bring it, regardless of the opponent andor size of the TV viewing audience.

I don't want to congratulate them for this turn around, because "that's what you're supposed to do!" it's just good to see that maximum effort is once again a steady attribute of Boston Celtics basketball.

But in the NBA, sometimes effort doesn't matter. Sometimes you find yourself in a situation where the other team is just better. Sometimes your best isn't good enough.

And sometimes you play the Lakers.

Truth be told, the deck is once again stacked against the Celtics tonight in LA where they're currently seven point underdogs. This is Kobe and friends' first home game since the break, but more importantly, it's their first home game since the death of Dr. Jerry Buss. There are going to be a ton of emotions running through the Staples Center and and not to trivialize things they're all going to be running against the Celtics.

Still, this is is the game the Celtics can win. A game they should win. And with the trade deadline just about 24 hours away, you wonder how much the outcome of tonight's game might shape Boston's short and long-term future.

You throw in the Dwight drama, the urgency on both sides, the general insanity of the Celtics-Lakers and that slight chance that this is the last time we see either Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce in Green and . . .

Things might get a little crazy.

I'll be at Staples Center, covering the game with A. Sherrod Blakely.

Hope that team will be there, too.

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

WATCH: Boston Celtics vs. Orlando Magic

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WATCH: Boston Celtics vs. Orlando Magic

Tune into NBC Sports Boston to watch the Celtics host the Magic at TD Garden. You can also click here to watch the Celtics livestream presented by Nissan on the NBC Sports App. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live Presented by ACE Ticket.

- Game preview: Time for Streak 2.0?

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Mapping out the Celtics' next super long win streak

Mapping out the Celtics' next super long win streak

That Celtics win streak was dope. Let’s map out an even longer one that probably won’t happen. 

Nobody’s actually expecting them to keep the pace they’ve established with their recently concluded run. Still, with 63 games remaining, there’s still time for the Celtics to have up to three win streaks of even longer than 16 games. So, because it’s the holidays and the holidays are all about positivity (fun move you’ve probably picked up from movies: You can say “the holidays are all about _____” and just put in whatever you want and it will work), let’s map out the next win streak. 

MORE CELTICS:

A big part of the Celtics’ 16-gamer (and get ready to say “duh”) is that they were better than a lot of the teams they beat. But they also beat one team that was without question better than them and beat a few teams that could certainly beat them on any given night. 

Here’s a rough breakdown of the 16 games: 

- Even if they didn’t go as smoothly as anticipated, nine games were against what could be classified as easy prey based on their rosters and how those teams were playing: The 76ers, the Knicks, the Kings, the Hawks twice, the Lakers, the Hornets, the Nets and the Mavericks. 

- Let’s say that the Heat (whom they played and beat during the streak before Miami snapped the streak Wednesday) and Magic weren’t perceived pushovers, but rather unremarkable opponents. 

- Four games were against what one could call worthy opponents for the Celtics: the Bucks, the Spurs (though they were missing Kawhi Leonard), the Thunder and the Raptors. 

- Nobody was ever pretending the Celtics were actually better than the Warriors. 

So that breaks the 16 games into one game against an unequivocally superior opponent, four against worthy opponents, two against unremarkable teams, and nine joke books. 

Of course, there are several variables that can be thrown into that, such as the fact that the C’s beat one of the aforementioned good teams (Toronto) without Kyrie Irving and nearly lost to two of those trash teams (Charlotte and Dallas). You can’t predict injuries just like you shouldn’t predict win streaks, but let’s take all the information we have and try to find the next one:

STARTING FRIDAY

Friday vs. Magic (trash; probable win)

Saturday at Pacers (unremarkable; potential loss)

A back-to-back after a holiday with the second game on the road against a team that’s been way better than expected? I don’t like the sound of it. 

Nov. 27 vs. Pistons (worthy opponent; potential loss)

Are they overrated? Maybe, but Pistons currently hold the second spot in the Eastern Conference. Whether it’s the Pacers or the Pistons, I think this short stretch prevents a speed bump. The streak might have to wait. 

STARTING NOV. 30

Nov. 30 against Sixers (upgraded to unremarkable based on recent play; still win)

Remember: The last streak started against the Sixers. Hopefully, Kyrie pays that fans’ way to Boston for a halftime reunion. 

Dec. 2 vs. Suns (trash; win)

Dec. 4 vs. Bucks (worthy opponent; win)

Celtics aren’t losing to those sons of guns twice at home. 

Dec. 6 vs. Dallas (trash; win)

Can you get revenge on a team for almost beating you? Yes. The Celtics will. 

Dec. 8 at Spurs (worthy opponent; win)

Until I see Kawhi on the court, this one is a win. 

Dec. 10 at Detroit (worthy opponent; win)

The Pistons play the Spurs, Bucks and Warriors the three previous games. They’ll be all tuckered out. 

Dec. 11 through Dec. 23 (mix of unremarkable and trash opponents; seven wins)

Dec. 25 vs. Wizards (worthy opponent; win)

Terry Rozier becomes a household name with a Christmas performance for the ages. 

Dec. 27 at Charlotte (trash; win) 

Dec. 28 vs. Houston (worthy opponent; win) 

Dec. 31 vs. Brooklyn (trash; loss)

The Celtics are 0-1 the days prior to holidays this season. The streak ends at 18. 

THE REST OF THE SEASON

We'll assess it then, but for now, let's say undefeated (including playoffs).

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