BOSTON – Brad Stevens likes the direction the Boston Celtics are going now.
After losing three straight and four of five, Boston (43-19) has reeled off three straight wins and are looking to pad that total tonight against the suddenly red-hot Charlotte Hornets.
Although Charlotte (23-28) is currently on the outside of the playoff bubble looking up to nine teams, they are indeed a club on the rise with wins in each of their last five games which includes a 118-103 win over Chicago.
Like Boston, Charlotte’s recent run of success has featured plenty of sub-.500 teams.
In fact, the Hornets' five-game winning streak includes just one team with a winning record (Washington).
As for Boston, all three of its wins during its current string of victories came against a team with a below-.500 record.
While those wins were certainly good for team morale, Stevens still isn’t quite sure of how much better his team is compared to where they were when they limped into the All-Star break just a couple of weeks ago.
“The game on Wednesday night, with the way Charlotte’s playing, will be a good test for us to see if we’re improving and if we’re getting better because I think they’re playing really well,” Stevens said.
Indeed, Charlotte has been productive at both ends of the floor during the team’s five-game winning streak.
In that span, the Hornets have an offensive rating of 114.9 which ranks fifth in the league. And their defensive rating in that span is 100.9 which also ranks fifth in the NBA.
But like the Celtics, they too have questions about themselves that can only be answered by facing stiffer competition which makes tonight’s game a bit of a litmus test for both teams.
However, Charlotte comes into tonight’s game with a couple of key players unlikely to play.
Charlotte’s Michael Kidd- Gilchrist suffered a hamstring injury early in Friday’s win over Chicago. The Hornets also lost Cody Zeller in the second half due to a sore left knee. Howard had 24 points for Charlotte, but he missed the entire second quarter with a sore back so his availability comes with some element of uncertainty as well.
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It all adds up to the Celtics once again being well positioned for a victory.
And if that does indeed come to fruition, Boston’s win total will get a little fatter even as questions remain as to how good this Celtics team really is.