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?
- What the C's are thankful for
- BLAKELY'S takeaways: Moving on after the streak
- Little things prove costly in first loss in a month
If so, Boston’s defense will once again lead the way because the Orlando Magic (8-10) 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.”