Celtics

Irving, Brown lead Celtics to 15th straight victory. 110-99 over Hawks

Irving, Brown lead Celtics to 15th straight victory. 110-99 over Hawks

Coming off a signature win over Golden State just on Thursday, no one would have been shocked if the Boston Celtics had a bit of a letdown against the three-win Atlanta Hawks.

But the script on Saturday didn’t look all that different than previous games for Boston which extended its winning streak to 15 in a row in defeating the Hawks 110-99.

Kyrie Irving led all Celtics with 30 points with Jaylen Brown tallying a career-high 27 points. Atlanta (3-13) was led by Dennis Schroder’s 23 points while Kent Bazemore had 19.

Boston (15-2) has now won 15 in a row which ranks as the fifth-longest winning streak in franchise history, just four short of tying the 2008-2009 Celtics which won 19 straight.

The ways in which Boston has managed to extend its winning streak have varied, but a common denominator in most of them has been the Celtics seemingly getting stronger as the game progresses.

Boston spent most of the first half playing from behind, but a 17-7 run in the third quarter which was capped off by back-to-back 3’s by Jaylen Brown put the Celtics ahead 68-65.

The Celtics were able to maintain a slim lead for the rest of the quarter which ended with Boston ahead 80-77.

In many ways, Saturday’s win was indicative of how Boston has managed to keep on winning.

In the first half they struggled to score, but Marcus Morris did his part to keep them afloat with 10 of his 14 points coming in the second quarter.

Boston’s surge in the third quarter was fueled in large part by Jayson Tatum who finished with 14 points – all coming in the third which served as the highest-scoring quarter (36 points) for the Celtics this season.

Having regained control of the game, Boston’s top two scorers most of the night – Brown and Irving – took over as they combined to score 17 of the Celtics’ 30 fourth-quarter points.

And while the main guys were getting it done down the stretch, the Celtics got a much-needed lift from the second unit in the first half to get back in the game.

Marcus Smart, who has struggled mightily with his shooting of late, had eight of his 10 points off the bench in the first half which included a pair of 3’s.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

 

Celtics-Pistons a reminder of where both teams stand in the East

Celtics-Pistons a reminder of where both teams stand in the East

The idea every game for the Boston Celtics is to play a little better than they did the previous game. It’s the clearest signal for growth which more than anything else, is what the Celtics are striving to do consistently.

But as much as that might have been a focus against Detroit on Sunday, there was a bigger agenda item at work.

According to Kyrie Irving, Boston’s 91-81 win wasn’t about payback.

He’s right. 

But make no mistake about it; that was an agenda-driven victory that wasn’t so much about sending a statement but more of a reminder as to where Boston is right in the pantheon of the NBA and where the Pistons hope to be someday.

Celtics players saw their first meeting on Nov. 27 as one of 82 games. If they win it, great. If not, oh well. Let’s keep it moving. But the Pistons saw it as so much more than that. They treated as a much bigger deal than Boston did, and the result was Boston suffering its worst loss of the season.

Their game on Sunday was a referendum on Boston still being the team to beat in the East not named Cleveland, and Detroit is still among a jumbled pack of playoff contenders.

And so both move on, Boston (23-5) maintaining the best record in the East while the Pistons (14-12) have now dropped six straight with no clear signs of snapping out of their doldrums anytime soon.

That would be the big picture takeaway from Sunday’s game.

But it’s not the only one. 

Here are five other takeaways from Boston’s 91-81 win at Detroit on Sunday. 

 

There has been some noticeable and statistical slippage by the Boston Celtics recently on defense. On Sunday? Not so much. In fact, Boston wound up rendering a season-low 81 points. A big part of that was Boston’s unwillingness to give Detroit open looks. Of the 84 shots taken by the Pistons, 63 – that’s 75 percent – were contested. Throw in the fact that the Celtics have tremendous length when they do contest shots, it’s no surprise that the Pistons had major problems generating points.

 

AL HORFORD

He scored more points (18) than any other Celtic, but that just scratches the surface as to what he meant to Boston on this night. He was a rugged force around the rim, finishing one rebound shy of a double-double. And the offense went through him a lot, which explains the six assists. 

 

KYRIE IRVING’S KRYPTONITE

There is no player in this league that does a better job of defending Kyrie Irving, than ex-Celtic Avery Bradley. Now don’t get it twisted. Bradley doesn’t shut Irving down. What he does is, he makes Irving work harder than he does against any player, to score. So the 16 points on 6-for-16 shooting while not great by Irving standards, is pretty good considering who he was being defended by.

 

ANDRE DRUMMOND

The knock on him has been and continues to be, that he’s not as engaged as consistently as he needs to be to help his team. Give a lot of credit to Boston’s Aron Baynes for making Drummond for the most part, a non-factor. But some of the blame for Drummond’s dismal performance offensively (he was 1-for-5 and the one basket was a tip-in that upon further review looked as though it should not have been allowed), is on him. He was the biggest, strongest force on the floor on Sunday and had a very Drummond-like game in terms of rebounds (15). But this Pistons team needs him to be a steady presence scoring the ball as well. When he does that, Detroit can beat any team. But when he plays like he did on Sunday, the result more often than not will be what we saw – a Detroit loss. 

 

ARON BAYNES

He was justifiably praised for the job he did defensively on Andre Drummond. But as important as that was, often Baynes’ contributions offensively go unnoticed. For example, he had six points which equaled Drummond’s scoring. But what got overlooked was the job Baynes did in screening for assists. Boston had 16 assists for the game, with Baynes screening for eight of them. To put that in perspective, that was four times the total of the rest of the Celtics. And the nearest player to him in that category was Detroit’s Eric Moreland who screened for four assists. 

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

WATCH: Boston Celtics vs. Chicago Bulls

stream-celtics-bulls.jpg

WATCH: Boston Celtics vs. Chicago Bulls

Tune into NBC Sports Boston to watch the Celtics play the Bulls in Chicago. You can also click here to watch the Celtics livestream presented by Nissan on the NBC Sports App. Coverage begins at 7:30 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live Presented by ACE Ticket.

- Game preview: Tatum getting lots of helping hands in his rookie season

- Channel Finder: Make sure you know where to watch

[SHOP: Gear up, Celtics fans!]

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE