Celtics

Rondo injury puts weight back on Pierce's, Garnett's shoulders

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Rondo injury puts weight back on Pierce's, Garnett's shoulders

TORONTO Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett are by anyone's definition, the graybeards of this Boston Celtics team.

And yet as they look to get their season back on track, no Celtics players seem to be carrying more of the load than those two.

At a time when their NBA contemporaries are adapting to a diminished role as bit players, these two continue to take center stage. And their efforts have not been in vain, not with the Celtics riding a four-game winning streak heading into Wednesday's game at Toronto.

Boston's bevy of guards have stepped up in absence of Rajon Rondo (torn right ACL, out for the season). But the play of Garnett and Pierce has been just as important.

"I'm having fun," said Pierce. "I'm playing a game I enjoy playing. My responsibility has always been heavy since I put on a Celtics uniform."

But lately, Pierce has been called upon to not just be the C's best scorer, but also impact the game as a passer and on the boards.

During the four-game winning streak, Pierce has averaged 17.3 points which is a slight dip from his scoring average this season. But his rebounds (9.8) and assists (6.3) during that span are both significantly up, which is exactly what the Celtics want - and need - from the Captain.

As for Garnett, his play is not only appreciated by his teammates but also by fans across the globe which is evident by them voting him in as a starter in the Feb. 17 All-Star game in Houston.

Known for his ability to impact the game in just about every area, he has indeed been Boston's Mr. Everything during their current winning streak.

In the last four games, Garnett has averaged 15.8 points, 8.8 rebounds, three assists, 1.8 steals and 1.5 blocks per game.

Such across-the-board production is impressive for any player in the NBA, let alone a 36-year-old like Garnett who continues to defy Father Time and play at a relatively high level.

"It's what it is," Garnett said. "Both of us have been in this league; we've had a lot of responsibility. It's kind of fell on our shoulders."

At the start of the season, there was a concerted effort on the part the Celtics - Pierce and Garnett included - to make it known that this was Rondo's team. But with Rondo out for the rest of the season, there was indeed an increase in responsibility both on and off the floor, placed on the shoulders of Garnett and Pierce.

"This is familiar territory for the both of us," Garnett said. "We don't really have a choice but to pick it up."

Garnett added, "other than that, just trying to make sure everybody plays the right way, lead the right way and be the example of everybody."

Celtics coach Doc Rivers acknowledges that Pierce is being asked to do more for the team with Rondo out. It hasn't resulted in more minutes played, however, which has been something Rivers has been monitoring all season.

This season, Pierce is averaging 33.7 minutes per game. During the team's four-game winning streak, Pierce's minutes are up to 36.3 which includes a double-overtime win over Miami in which he played a season-high 49 minutes.

As for Garnett, his minutes have also remained relatively the same (30.1 this season, 31 in last four games) during the team's winning streak even as the responsibilities for both him and Pierce have been on the rise.

"That's not that taxing," Rivers said when asked about their increased responsibility. "Hell, you're going to play basketball. You might as well be responsible for it."

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. 

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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).
 

Celtics-Magic preview: Time for Streak 2.0?

Celtics-Magic preview: Time for Streak 2.0?

BOSTON – The last time the Celtics were coming off a loss, they bounced back and won their next 16 games.
 
Could tonight trigger winning streak 2.0?

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If so, Boston’s defense will once again lead the way because the Orlando Magic (8-6) have been one of the better offensive teams in the NBA this season.
 
They come into tonight’s game shooting 46.7 percent from the field, which ranks seventh in the NBA. They also average 11.6 made three-pointers per game, which ranks fourth in the league.
 
One of the keys to Orlando’s offense is to play with a pace (103.16) that ranks among the league’s best.

Still, the Celtics have seen their share of elite offenses this season and more often than not, they have been up to the challenge.
 
For Boston, their defensive success begins with a starting unit that has been among the best in the league most of this season.
 
Boston has utilized a number of different starting lineups, but the one that has logged the most minutes (79) together – Kyrie Irving, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, Al Horford and Aron Baynes – has a defensive rating of 85.8, which is tops in the league among all five-man lineups which have logged as many or more minutes than Boston’s five-man group.
 
But as well as the Celtics played defensively as the wins piled up, there were clear and undeniable signs that a game such as Wednesday night's 104-98 loss at Miami was on the horizon.
 
Of the 16 wins, the Celtics were down by double digits in each of the past three victories and five overall in the streak.
 
But getting behind consistently and finding a way to rally spoke volumes about this team’s ability to handle adversity.
 
“Obviously winning is good,” said rookie Jayson Tatum. “Just the fashion that we did it in and the adversity that we had to overcome. It brought us closer together and made us a tougher team.”
 
But it seemed self-inflicted adversity by way of slow starts, which was starting to become part of the narrative to this Celtics team.
 
The past three wins - games in which the Celtics trailed by 13 at Dallas, 16 at Atlanta and 17 at home against Golden State - collectively they were a clear indicator that Boston still had room to improve despite finding ways to win.
 
 “We have to get better, we have to get better at what we’re trying to do,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. “It’s a little bit, looking at the 16 straight [wins], as I said, it was a little bit of a mirage. We know we have to get better.”
 

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