Celtics

It's like Celtics 'are early in training camp again' says Stevens

It's like Celtics 'are early in training camp again' says Stevens

BOSTON – The NBA calendar says we are near the end of the first week of the regular season.
 
But for Brad Stevens and the Celtics, the past few days have had more of a training camp-like feel.

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A season-ending injury to All-Star Gordon Hayward just five minutes into the season, along with an ankle sprain to Marcus Smart (the same left ankle that earlier kept him out for long stretches) has left Stevens no choice but to make significant, on-the-fly, in-season changes. 
 
“We’re changing a little bit of our emphases, specifically our emphases late game,” Stevens said.
 
Coming out of camp, the Celtics were planning to keep either Kyrie Irving or Hayward on the floor most if not all the time, and, down the stretch, the two would play together.
 
With no Hayward, the Celtics have to modify their late-game approach, which was evident by them losing two of their first three games having a lead in the fourth quarter of each game. 

Having had a day to practice this weekend and not a game to play right away was critical for the Celtics to begin working in earnest on the best way to navigate the rest of their season without Hayward, the team's prized offseason free-agent signing.
 
Getting Irving and Al Horford in better positions to be effective late in games, as well as more post opportunities for young wing players Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, are just some of the slight modifications Boston will be looking to implement more of going forward. 

“We’re kind of, we’re adding more of that stuff, subtracting a little bit of what we put in at the start of the year which now seems like a long time ago,” Stevens said.
 
He added, “I almost felt like in the last [few] days, it’s been like we’re early in training camp again in a lot of ways.”
 
In camp, there’s always a sense, even among those who aren’t expected to play much, that as long as you’re on the roster there’s a chance you’ll get an opportunity to play.
 
Well, that’s not just wishful thinking anymore.
 
That’s the reality of where the Celtics are because of injuries, a scenario in which anyone on the roster – even a guy signed to a two-way contract such as Jabari Bird – will get a chance to play meaningful minutes.
 
Bird did just that in the 102-92 win over the Sixers on Friday night.
 
A last-minute call-up due to Hayward’s injury, Bird had no idea he was going to get a chance to play against Philadelphia.
 
All he knew was that he would suit up, just as he did the previous game against the Milwaukee Bucks.
 
He didn’t make a single shot for the Celtics (he was 0-for-1 from the field, 3-for-5 from the line), but he made the most of his shot at playing and in doing so, scored major points in the eyes of the coaching staff and his teammates with his defense against Sixers sharpshooter J.J. Redick who finished with a team-high 19 points despite missing three of his four shot attempts in the fourth quarter.
 
Bird played seven minutes, 31 seconds of the fourth quarter with the only Celtics logging more time in the quarter being his former teammate at Cal, Jaylen Brown (10:48) and Al Horford (10:16).
 
Despite coming up big in the Sixers win, Bird said things were status quo for him at the Celtics’ practice on Saturday.

“I try to stay ready for any moment,” Bird said. “Practice was real light, just got up shots and went over plays. It’s nothing too different for me. It’s not like I went out [Friday] night and dropped 50. I just came into the game to provide a spark on defense., that’s all; nothing too crazy.”
 
But Bird making the most of his opportunity to play when there were very few signs if any that it would happen, speaks to how every player on this roster has to be thinking there’s a chance that they too might be called upon to step up and contribute with very little advance notice.
 
And for the Celtics, that’s a good thing.

“Every one of them should think there’s a good chance to impact the game on Tuesday night [against New York],” Stevens said. “There’s not a guy on this roster that shouldn’t think that right now. It may or not be there every night, but ultimately we’re in a situation where we need everybody; we need everybody to be at their best and prepare to be at their best. Whether you played no minutes like [Semi] Ojeleye [Friday] night, or you played a ton of minutes like others, we need you prepared like you are going to play a lot, every game. It’s going to be really important.”

WATCH: Boston Celtics vs. Orlando Magic

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WATCH: Boston Celtics vs. Orlando Magic

Tune into NBC Sports Boston to watch the Celtics host the Magic at TD Garden. You can also click here to watch the Celtics livestream presented by Nissan on the NBC Sports App. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live Presented by ACE Ticket.

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Mapping out the Celtics' next super long win streak

Mapping out the Celtics' next super long win streak

That Celtics win streak was dope. Let’s map out an even longer one that probably won’t happen. 

Nobody’s actually expecting them to keep the pace they’ve established with their recently concluded run. Still, with 63 games remaining, there’s still time for the Celtics to have up to three win streaks of even longer than 16 games. So, because it’s the holidays and the holidays are all about positivity (fun move you’ve probably picked up from movies: You can say “the holidays are all about _____” and just put in whatever you want and it will work), let’s map out the next win streak. 

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A big part of the Celtics’ 16-gamer (and get ready to say “duh”) is that they were better than a lot of the teams they beat. But they also beat one team that was without question better than them and beat a few teams that could certainly beat them on any given night. 

Here’s a rough breakdown of the 16 games: 

- Even if they didn’t go as smoothly as anticipated, nine games were against what could be classified as easy prey based on their rosters and how those teams were playing: The 76ers, the Knicks, the Kings, the Hawks twice, the Lakers, the Hornets, the Nets and the Mavericks. 

- Let’s say that the Heat (whom they played and beat during the streak before Miami snapped the streak Wednesday) and Magic weren’t perceived pushovers, but rather unremarkable opponents. 

- Four games were against what one could call worthy opponents for the Celtics: the Bucks, the Spurs (though they were missing Kawhi Leonard), the Thunder and the Raptors. 

- Nobody was ever pretending the Celtics were actually better than the Warriors. 

So that breaks the 16 games into one game against an unequivocally superior opponent, four against worthy opponents, two against unremarkable teams, and nine joke books. 

Of course, there are several variables that can be thrown into that, such as the fact that the C’s beat one of the aforementioned good teams (Toronto) without Kyrie Irving and nearly lost to two of those trash teams (Charlotte and Dallas). You can’t predict injuries just like you shouldn’t predict win streaks, but let’s take all the information we have and try to find the next one:

STARTING FRIDAY

Friday vs. Magic (trash; probable win)

Saturday at Pacers (unremarkable; potential loss)

A back-to-back after a holiday with the second game on the road against a team that’s been way better than expected? I don’t like the sound of it. 

Nov. 27 vs. Pistons (worthy opponent; potential loss)

Are they overrated? Maybe, but Pistons currently hold the second spot in the Eastern Conference. Whether it’s the Pacers or the Pistons, I think this short stretch prevents a speed bump. The streak might have to wait. 

STARTING NOV. 30

Nov. 30 against Sixers (upgraded to unremarkable based on recent play; still win)

Remember: The last streak started against the Sixers. Hopefully, Kyrie pays that fans’ way to Boston for a halftime reunion. 

Dec. 2 vs. Suns (trash; win)

Dec. 4 vs. Bucks (worthy opponent; win)

Celtics aren’t losing to those sons of guns twice at home. 

Dec. 6 vs. Dallas (trash; win)

Can you get revenge on a team for almost beating you? Yes. The Celtics will. 

Dec. 8 at Spurs (worthy opponent; win)

Until I see Kawhi on the court, this one is a win. 

Dec. 10 at Detroit (worthy opponent; win)

The Pistons play the Spurs, Bucks and Warriors the three previous games. They’ll be all tuckered out. 

Dec. 11 through Dec. 23 (mix of unremarkable and trash opponents; seven wins)

Dec. 25 vs. Wizards (worthy opponent; win)

Terry Rozier becomes a household name with a Christmas performance for the ages. 

Dec. 27 at Charlotte (trash; win) 

Dec. 28 vs. Houston (worthy opponent; win) 

Dec. 31 vs. Brooklyn (trash; loss)

The Celtics are 0-1 the days prior to holidays this season. The streak ends at 18. 

THE REST OF THE SEASON

We'll assess it then, but for now, let's say undefeated (including playoffs).

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