Blakely's takeaways: The streak's most improbable win

Blakely's takeaways: The streak's most improbable win

BOSTON – Even with a healthy Kyrie Irving, the Celtics struggled to score Friday night. To lose him less than two minutes into Friday’s game against Charlotte, you knew points would indeed be at a premium.
But the Celtics did what we’ve seen them do all season - look adversity in the eye, grin, and keep moving with a “no worries, we got this” mindset that has been critical to them winning 11 in a row and continuing to boast the best record in the NBA (11-2) following a 90-87 victory over the Hornets.


Irving was unable to play after catching an elbow to the face from teammate Aron Baynes that knocked him to the ground. He is being monitored for concussion-like symptoms. That has his availability for the game Sunday afternoon against Toronto at TD Garden very much up in the air.
However, within the disappointment of Irving’s injury comes with the reality that the Celtics managed to once again overcome a key personnel loss by rallying for a victory despite the odds being heavily stacked against them.
“We just got a lot of fight in us,” said Shane Larkin who finished with a season-high 16 points. “A lot of resilient guys. We believe in our team. We believe in each other. We just go out there and play together. There’s not one guy that took it upon himself to say, ‘all right I’m gonna bring us back.’ We kind of played together. Played the right way and when we do, it’s hard to guard all of us.”
Here are five takeaways from the C's 11th consecutive victory: 
For a team with several players who stepped up in the second half, few elevated their play the way Larkin did for the Celtics. He wasn’t just making shots; he was making them at critical times as Boston worked towards erasing an 18-point deficit. Larkin finished with a season-high 16 points on 5-for-8 shooting.
Patriots coach Bill Belichick gets a lot of praise for the “stats are for losers” line, but what often gets ignored is what he said after that. “The final score is for winners and that’s what it’s really about,” Belichick said. The play of Marcus Smart and Jaylen Brown are good examples of that. They combined to shoot just 6-for-30 from the field, and yet there was Smart tallying almost half (seven) of Boston’s 15 assists. And it was Brown’s driving lay-up in the fourth quarter that gave Boston a one-point lead that it would not relinquish, not to mention he grabbed a career-high 13 rebounds.  The numbers weren’t great for either player, but their ability to impact winning – which as Belichick says, is what it’s all about – is undeniable.

As this winning streak of the Celtics rolls along, Stevens becomes a bigger part of the team’s success. He’s putting guys in position to be great, keeping the spirits high of guys at the end of the bench who know he’ll give them a shot at some point. Most significant? The Celtics just keep on winning. A number of different faces have emerged which helps, but the one constant in the team’s run of success has been Stevens. “He’s a guru,” said Marcus Morris. “He’s putting us in the right spots, calling out the plays. He’s doing really good, utilizing everybody.”

For those who wonder just how good a defender Aron Baynes can be, Friday night was like a Baynes highlight reel. He blocked three shots, contested others and made his presence inside the paint defensively his own personal no-fly zone for Hornets players. He spent more time than anyone guarding Dwight Howard, playing a critical role in Howard missing six of his eight shots. On top of that, Howard wound up with more turnovers (seven) than points (six).

He only has a handful of games under his belt this season, but it’s clear why the Celtics viewed him as someone who could help them this season. The final 23.8 seconds Friday served as a reminder as to his value to this team. After draining a 21-footer that put Boston ahead 88-85, he followed that with the defensive play of the night. With Boston clinging to an 88-87 lead, he forced ultra-quick Kemba Walker into a really tough miss that would serve as Charlotte’s last shot at victory. The big shot and clutch defensive play were only part of what made it such a good game for Morris. Afterwards, he indicated that he did not have any major soreness in his left knee, which was not the case after his previous game. His improving health combined with his talents at both ends of the floor, bode well for Boston’s chance to continue along its winning ways on Sunday against Toronto.




Celtics defense doesn't rise to occasion with Kyrie out vs. Bulls

Celtics defense doesn't rise to occasion with Kyrie out vs. Bulls

New experiences are a given when you have as many new faces as the Boston Celtics have this season.

Monday’s 108-85 loss to the Chicago Bulls?

Yup, that’s a new one.

You can rest assured the Celtics won’t dwell on this loss too long. But that doesn’t mean it’ll be forgotten quickly, either.


As the Boston Celtics piled up the wins this season (they still lead the East with a 23-6 record), head coach Brad Stevens has tried to keep his team humble, reminding them that if they don’t play well they can be beat by anybody … even the Bulls.

Even in defeat, Boston has managed to at least give themselves a shot at winning with good energy and effort from most if not every player that steps on the court.

“We have a young group, so we usually have a lot of energy,” Boston’s Jaylen Brown told reporters afterwards. “We just couldn’t find it tonight. We start off bad, we usually find a way to come back and rally into the game. We could just never get it going.”

Boston’s Al Horford echoed similar sentiments.

“Credit to our group. We go out, we fight every night,” Horford said. “And tonight, we pushed but they answered back. We never caught a break. There were times there, we could have had a three (3-pointer) and we missed it. And then they come down and hit a three. It was kind of like … one of those nights, everything was working their way. Gotta give them credit. They came out the aggressor. They held it and we didn’t have it tonight.”

Of course, the easy way to explain away what happened was to point out the impact of not having Kyrie Irving (quads injury).

While there’s no question not having the team’s top scorer has a negative impact on the team’s overall play, the Celtics are a team that’s rooted in strong defensive play which should have been on display against Chicago.

Instead of Boston’s defense taking the lead, they were a non-factor most of the night, especially when it came to Nikola Mirotic and Bobby Portis who had 24 and 23 points, respectively.

“We didn’t challenge Mirotic or Portis at all,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. “And they got to the rim whenever they wanted.”

Fortunately for the Celtics, they return home where they can try and get back on a winning track after losing two of their last three games.

“We have to respond against Denver (on Wednesday),” Brown said. “When we come back and play them, we should have more energy.”


Stars, studs and duds: 'Sometimes you get your butt kicked'

Stars, studs and duds: 'Sometimes you get your butt kicked'

Following Boston’s 108-85 thumping at the hands of the Chicago Bulls, Brad Stevens had a very succinct message for his team after the loss.

“Sometimes you get your butt kicked!” he told them.

While that’s true, it’s rare for an elite team, or least one with an elite-team record, to get beaten so soundly by another squad that while playing better of late, is still the worst team in the league.

“Chicago dictated the whole game; they played harder than we did,” Stevens said. “They played with more presence than we did; played more competitive than we did. They played with more authority than we did. You’re not going to win many games when you play like that.”


Losing is something that all teams, good and bad, have to deal with and experience. But the way Chicago dominated play for most of the night, was something new for this Celtics team that has consistently come back from huge deficits to win.

But Stevens has cautioned repeatedly how his team was playing with fire making that part of their narrative this season, knowing there would be times when they just wouldn’t be able to muster up the necessary plays at either end of the floor and rally for a victory.

Monday was that night.

“We’ve had a chance to win every game except for this one,” Stevens said. “This one was obvious, even when we were making our run in the third it was kind of back and forth. And they hit every big shot they needed to kind of stem the tide when it was an 11-point game or put it back to 14. We just had too many easy errors from our standpoint. And then, they made plays.”

And in doing so, they absolutely out-played the Celtics in every way imaginable.

“I don’t want to chalk it up to, ‘hey you’re gonna have nights like this,’” Stevens said. “We just got our butt kicked; we’ll take that and move forward.”

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Boston’s 108-85 beatdown at the hands of the Chicago Bulls who despite winning three straight, have now moved up to a tie for the worst record (6-20) in the NBA, with Atlanta.



Nikola Mirotic

The Boston Celtics had no answer for Mirotic who lit the Celtics up for 24 points. “We didn’t do a great job guarding him and he made us pay for that,” Stevens said. “He’s a really good offensive player.”

Bobby Portis

Coming off the bench, Portis gave the Celtics fits from the perimeter as well as around the rim before finishing with a season-high 23 points. “Portis got going from (3-point range),” Stevens said. “We played with no presence.”



Kyrie Irving

He didn’t log a single minute on Monday, but his presence was definitely felt. Boston looked completely lost and discombobulated with their four-time all-star out of the lineup with a quads injury.



Every Celtic on the active roster

There’s just not enough space to go through all the players that failed the Celtics miserably on Monday. The starters. The bench. The two-way players called up. This was not just the worst game of the season for the Celtics, but one of the worst ever in Stevens’ four-plus seasons as the Celtics head coach. “It was a collective success for them, and a collective failure for us,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens.