Celtics

Blakely's takeaways: Moving on without the streak

Blakely's takeaways: Moving on without the streak

The streak is over! The streak is over!

We now return the Boston Celtics to their regularly scheduled pursuit of success without the growing pressure that comes with a historically relevant winning streak.

The 104-98 loss at Miami on Wednesday night brought an end to what had been one of the more unlikely winning streaks we’ve seen in the NBA for quite some time.

Boston reeled off 16 straight wins, many of which were the come-from-a-double-digit-deficit variety. In the end, the Celtics’ winning streak ranks as the fourth-longest in this storied franchise’s history.

“I told you, we’re not as good as the 16-game win streak,” Stevens said following the loss. “But we do have a lot of resolve.”

That resolve will surely be challenged with the Celtics taking Thanksgiving off, only to return and play three games in the next four nights beginning with Orlando on Friday, followed by a road game at Indiana on Saturday and a home date against the Detroit Pistons on Monday.

Here are five takeaways from the Boston Celtics’ 16-game winning streak.

KYRIE FOR MVP?

When the Boston Celtics traded for Kyrie Irving during the offseason, there was a sense that his presence would be a plus in some capacity, at some point. But few envisioned Irving would not only have a relatively seamless fit with the Celtics, but deliver in such a way that would catapult them to the top of the NBA standings and in doing so, establish him as one of the early front-runners for the league’s MVP award. This season, Irving is averaging a team-best 22.5 points and 5.2 assists while shooting 47 percent from the field but most important, the Celtics (16-3) have the best record in the NBA.

WANTED: BENCH SCORER

If you are a fan of good defenders, you probably love the Boston Celtics’ second unit. Terry Rozier and Marcus Smart are both ball-hawking defenders who can make some miserable times for opponents when they are on top of their game. Daniel Theis provides great energy on the glass and defensively. But the second unit needs a jolt offensively. Because as good as they can defend collectively, the Celtics have to have at least one starter on the floor most of the time because the bench doesn’t have an adequate collector of buckets that they can rely on consistently. Marcus Morris looks like an ideal choice for that role, but the left knee soreness that kept him out for eight games seems to be flaring up from time to time. Whether they address this with a trade or possibly with a player bought out, the lack of a second-unit scorer is very much an issue for this team.

BROWN EMERGES AS TWO-WAY TALENT

The plan was for Jaylen Brown to be an elite, shut-down defender this season. He has shown himself to be a good defender this season, but what has really made him stand out is the growth in his game offensively. The second-year wing has scored 20-plus points in three of Boston’s last four games. Doing that along with continuing to play good defense has him looking like one of the NBA’s promising young two-way talents.

TATUM’S GROWTH A SILVER LINING IN HAYWARD INJURY

You never want to see the Boston Celtics or any team for that matter, lose a player for the season let alone one who meant as much as Gordon Hayward to the Celtics. But if there is a silver lining in his ankle injury which is expected to keep him out all season, it is the opportunity it created for Jayson Tatum. The 19-year-old has been arguably the best player from last June’s draft class, playing major minutes with a major role for the team with the best record in the NBA. The opportunity to play around 30 minutes a game would not have been there for Tatum if Hayward didn’t get hurt. The challenge for Tatum going forward is to stay consistent, because now that teams have seen him for almost a quarter of the season, you can expect they will make some adjustments in how they defend him as well as try to attack him when he’s defending.

WE TALKIN’ ABOUT PRACTICE

During Boston’s 16 game winning streak, the Celtics played the last eight games in 16 nights. That’s a game every other night for more than two weeks. In that time, there’s little to no time for practice which has been a factor in Boston not being quite as sharp in the last few games, as they were at the start of the streak. After Thanksgiving, Boston plays three games in four nights with a pair of days off to follow before they return to action. There’s a very good chance that the Celtics will use one of those two days to practice, something this team desperately needs to clean up some of the minor mistakes that were big problems in their loss to the Heat on Wednesday.

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Time for Celtics to shake off the blues in Memphis

Time for Celtics to shake off the blues in Memphis

As the Celtics’ players gathered their belongings and headed out for tonight’s game in Memphis, Gordon Hayward took a seat at his locker stall, the first one you come across when you enter the Celtics’ locker room.

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Like most of us trying to make sense of Boston’s 107-95 loss to Utah, Hayward could sense the disappointment among his teammates. 

He offered a few words of encouragement to teammate Semi Ojeleye, whose locker was next to his, soon followed by a few more words for Jaylen Brown whose mindset was already on to the next game tonight at Memphis.

“We’re going to come out, respond, play as hard as we can,” said Brown, who added, “just come out and get a win against Memphis.”

That “on-to-the-next-one” mantra has served Boston well this season and they'll look to continue along those lines against the Grizzlies tonight.

Despite losses in three of their past five, the Celtics (24-7) still have the best record in the East – two games ahead of Cleveland (21-8).

“We got a big one [tonight],” said Terry Rozier. “We just have to pay attention to the details and take care of business.”

Here are under the radar storylines heading into tonight’s game against Memphis.

THE AL AND KYRIE SHOW
We have seen these two work in sync with one another for a good chunk of this season, so it was not all that surprising to see both play well against the Jazz. They combined to score 54 of Boston’s 95 points, or 56.8 percent of their scoring. And when it came to setting up teammates, they had 13 of Boston’s 20 assists, or 65 percent. They don’t have to be that dominant tonight, but putting up comparable numbers – and maybe getting one or two players to chip in as well – would go far in Boston getting back on a winning track.

THE "NEW" COACH
J.B. Bickerstaff became Memphis’ interim head coach after the organization fired David Fizdale after a 7-12 start. Like any interim head coach, he’s trying his best to make a favorable impression so that the "interim" tag will be dropped. So far? Not great. The Grizzlies have lost eight of 10 since Fizdale’s firing in large part because of injuries – which was among the factors that contributed to Fizdale’s struggles. This isn’t Bickerstaff’s first go-around as an NBA head coach. As an assistant coach with the Houston Rockets, he was named the interim coach when Kevin McHale was fired in 2015. Bickerstaff went 37-34 and led the Rockets to the first round of the playoffs where they were eliminated in five games by the Golden State Warriors.


 
REBOUNDING
Talent, timing and effort all go hand-in-hand when it comes to rebounding success, with effort being the most critical component. And against the Jazz, Boston just didn’t seem to bring it at any point in the game. And the end result was a 55-31 rebounding advantage for the Jazz. Boston may catch a break tonight against the Grizzlies, who come into tonight’s game with a rebounding percentage of .478 which ranks 27th (out of 30 teams) in the NBA.


 
D ON THE DECLINE
Friday night’s game against Utah was yet another underwhelming performance by Boston’s defense. The Celtics had a defensive rating of 109.3.  For the season, the Celtics still have the league’s top defense – barely. Their 100.6 defensive rating is just a smidge better than Oklahoma City (100.7). And once again, Boston might get some relief tonight against a Memphis team that has struggled offensively all season. They come into the game with an offensive rating of 101.4, which ranks 27th in the league.

JAYSON TATUM
It’s still too soon to say if Tatum has hit the rough patch all first-year players endure – better known as the rookie wall – but there’s no question his scoring of late has been off. The past three games, Tatum, 19, has scored a total of 26 points, which is the fewest he has scored in a three-game stretch as a pro. The rookie had seven points on 1-for-7 shooting against the Jazz, bringing his shooting numbers in the past three games to a not-so-great 8-for-22 (36.4 percent).

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

 

WATCH: Boston Celtics vs. Memphis Grizzlies

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WATCH: Boston Celtics vs. Memphis Grizzlies

Tune into NBC Sports Boston to watch the Celtics play the Grizzlies in Memphis. You can also click here to watch the Celtics livestream presented by Nissan on the NBC Sports App. Coverage begins at 8:30 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live Presented by ACE Ticket.

- Game preview: C's look to reverse some disturbing trends in Memphis 

- Channel Finder: Make sure you know where to watch

[SHOP: Gear up, Celtics fans!]

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE