BOSTON -- Upon first glance, it looks like the basketball gods did the Boston Celtics a solid heading into this week with a stretch of games coming up against teams that on paper at least, are all very beatable.
But the Celtics know better.
The caliber of opponents in this upcoming three-game home stand don’t look all that different than the ones they faced in the three consecutive games they had upon returning from London earlier this month.
And those three games?
Boston lost all of them.
The Celtics (36-15) hope to avoid a repeat beginning tonight against the New York Knicks (23-28), who are coming off a 111-95 win over Brooklyn on Tuesday.
Since Boston’s 114-103 win over Philadelphia in London on Nov. 21, the Celtics have lost five of last seven games.
Jet lag? Fatigue? Lack of focus? Loss of rhythm?
While there’s no clear-cut explanation as to why Boston has struggled lately, the players and coaching staff are starting to feel a little better about the team’s direction following wins in two of their last three, over the Los Angeles Clippers and Denver, respectively.
Brad Stevens has maintained all season that as much as he wants the Celtics to win every time they step on the floor, adding growth and experience is just as important.
And that message is not lost on the players, who have bought into it with little to no resistance.
That’s why despite the recent losing, the Celtics aren’t the least bit deterred.
Kyrie Irving is a dynamic scorer, but the ability for Boston to continue evolving into a title contender hinges in part on the development of a No. 2 scoring threat.
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Jaylen Brown has shown the ability to impact the game at both ends of the floor, in transition and from beyond the 3-point line as was the case in Boston's 111-110 win over Denver which included him making the game-winning shot from 3-point range.
Rookie Jayson Tatum has cooled off some lately, but he’s still among the best first-year players in the NBA in addition to being one of Boston's primary scorers --- especially in the fourth quarter.
And off the bench you’ve got Marcus Morris, whose health (he missed several games this season due to a sore left knee) doesn’t seem to be an issue that keeps him in and out of the lineup, anymore.
As good as Irving is, he knows as well as anyone that Boston’s success has to involve the aforementioned players, and others.
“We understand it’s a long process to figure things out as a team,” he said. “If we have the same focus that we’ve had over the last three games, even though they haven’t resulted everyone in a win, I feel we’ll be in a great position to be successful.”
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