Celtics

New-look Celtics know they have still have to 'bring their game'

New-look Celtics know they have still have to 'bring their game'

WALTHAM, Mass. – After being acquired via trade from Detroit this summer, Boston Celtics forward Marcus Morris will be suiting up for his fourth team in seven seasons.

But this season will be unlike any other for Morris as he joins a Celtics’ roster that was significantly strengthened in the offseason with a roster overhaul that, now that the dust has settled, leaves them with a lineup that includes three All-Stars – Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward and Al Horford.

“That’s a big change for me,” Morris, who will miss the first week of the season due to right knee soreness, told NBC Sports Boston.

The same is true for the rest of his teammates as they gear up for the season opener at Cleveland on Tuesday.

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Boston has not gone into a season with this level of excitement and heightened expectations since Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen were donning the green and white.

While Cleveland remains the team to beat in the East, the Celtics aren’t that far behind.  

And while the KG-Pierce-Allen triumvirate was credited with much of the success Boston enjoyed during their time, their success was a collective effort because of the contributions of many who understood and embraced their roles.

For the most part, the current group of Celtics have done just that.

But the true test of their selflessness, of their willingness to put the team first and foremost, won’t have a chance to materialize until Tuesday’s season opener against the Cavs.

Marcus Smart, the longest-tenured Celtic on the roster, has played starter-like minutes his entire career in Boston and was under strong consideration to be in the starting lineup.

After going back and forth with the idea prior to preseason games, coach Brad Stevens ultimately decided to keep Smart coming off the bench to help lead what’s shaping up to be an extremely young second unit.

While Smart would love to start, more important to him is being a player that’s significantly contributing to the team’s success which often means being on the floor in the decisive fourth quarter of games.

“I’ve been a starter my whole life,” Smart told NBC Sports Boston. “I’ve also come off the bench as well. We have a lot of great players. It doesn’t really matter. It’s easy to be in the game and play when things are going well. The buzzer just goes off, it’s tip ball. Everybody just getting warmed up. It’s hard to play at the end of the game, Eastern Conference finals and the game is on the line. Your nerves are going crazy and it’s your first time there. Those are the moments you want to be in. So, it doesn’t matter if you start or not. You want to be in at the end of the game. That’s when it really counts.”

And there’s a very good chance that he’ll be on the floor with Boston’s new Big Three who each bring a different set of skills to the floor that collectively give the Celtics hope that they can take one more step forward after advancing to the Eastern Conference finals last season.

As important as it is to figure out the best way to mesh their skills with the Big Three, it’s also vital that they remain true to who they are as players and not get into defer-mode which would do more harm than prove helpful to the Celtics’ chances at success.

Everyone has a role on this team.

It’s that simple.

“If I don’t come to play and I don’t bring my grittiness and my game and my scoring, I would be letting the team down,” Morris said. “Even though we have three All-Stars, we need everybody to bring their game every night and play. I’m still gonna step up and do what I gotta do.”

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

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.

- Game preview: Time for Streak 2.0?

- Channel Finder: Make sure you know where to watch

[SHOP: Gear up, Celtics fans!]

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

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).