Celtics

Blakely's takeaways: Moving on without the streak

Blakely's takeaways: Moving on without the streak

The streak is over! The streak is over!

We now return the Boston Celtics to their regularly scheduled pursuit of success without the growing pressure that comes with a historically relevant winning streak.

The 104-98 loss at Miami on Wednesday night brought an end to what had been one of the more unlikely winning streaks we’ve seen in the NBA for quite some time.

Boston reeled off 16 straight wins, many of which were the come-from-a-double-digit-deficit variety. In the end, the Celtics’ winning streak ranks as the fourth-longest in this storied franchise’s history.

“I told you, we’re not as good as the 16-game win streak,” Stevens said following the loss. “But we do have a lot of resolve.”

That resolve will surely be challenged with the Celtics taking Thanksgiving off, only to return and play three games in the next four nights beginning with Orlando on Friday, followed by a road game at Indiana on Saturday and a home date against the Detroit Pistons on Monday.

Here are five takeaways from the Boston Celtics’ 16-game winning streak.

KYRIE FOR MVP?

When the Boston Celtics traded for Kyrie Irving during the offseason, there was a sense that his presence would be a plus in some capacity, at some point. But few envisioned Irving would not only have a relatively seamless fit with the Celtics, but deliver in such a way that would catapult them to the top of the NBA standings and in doing so, establish him as one of the early front-runners for the league’s MVP award. This season, Irving is averaging a team-best 22.5 points and 5.2 assists while shooting 47 percent from the field but most important, the Celtics (16-3) have the best record in the NBA.

WANTED: BENCH SCORER

If you are a fan of good defenders, you probably love the Boston Celtics’ second unit. Terry Rozier and Marcus Smart are both ball-hawking defenders who can make some miserable times for opponents when they are on top of their game. Daniel Theis provides great energy on the glass and defensively. But the second unit needs a jolt offensively. Because as good as they can defend collectively, the Celtics have to have at least one starter on the floor most of the time because the bench doesn’t have an adequate collector of buckets that they can rely on consistently. Marcus Morris looks like an ideal choice for that role, but the left knee soreness that kept him out for eight games seems to be flaring up from time to time. Whether they address this with a trade or possibly with a player bought out, the lack of a second-unit scorer is very much an issue for this team.

BROWN EMERGES AS TWO-WAY TALENT

The plan was for Jaylen Brown to be an elite, shut-down defender this season. He has shown himself to be a good defender this season, but what has really made him stand out is the growth in his game offensively. The second-year wing has scored 20-plus points in three of Boston’s last four games. Doing that along with continuing to play good defense has him looking like one of the NBA’s promising young two-way talents.

TATUM’S GROWTH A SILVER LINING IN HAYWARD INJURY

You never want to see the Boston Celtics or any team for that matter, lose a player for the season let alone one who meant as much as Gordon Hayward to the Celtics. But if there is a silver lining in his ankle injury which is expected to keep him out all season, it is the opportunity it created for Jayson Tatum. The 19-year-old has been arguably the best player from last June’s draft class, playing major minutes with a major role for the team with the best record in the NBA. The opportunity to play around 30 minutes a game would not have been there for Tatum if Hayward didn’t get hurt. The challenge for Tatum going forward is to stay consistent, because now that teams have seen him for almost a quarter of the season, you can expect they will make some adjustments in how they defend him as well as try to attack him when he’s defending.

WE TALKIN’ ABOUT PRACTICE

During Boston’s 16 game winning streak, the Celtics played the last eight games in 16 nights. That’s a game every other night for more than two weeks. In that time, there’s little to no time for practice which has been a factor in Boston not being quite as sharp in the last few games, as they were at the start of the streak. After Thanksgiving, Boston plays three games in four nights with a pair of days off to follow before they return to action. There’s a very good chance that the Celtics will use one of those two days to practice, something this team desperately needs to clean up some of the minor mistakes that were big problems in their loss to the Heat on Wednesday.

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Brad Stevens on Kyrie Irving: 'He looks pretty good'

Brad Stevens on Kyrie Irving: 'He looks pretty good'

PLYMOUTH, Mass. –  The last time we saw Kyrie Irving, he was in street clothes as the Celtics navigated their way through the playoffs without him and advanced all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals.

Fast forward to this month, one in which Stevens has seen Irving working out with his teammates in pickup games doing what can be best described as Irving-like things.

When asked if Irving had the cutting moves we’ve seen him display in splicing up defenders on a nightly basis, Stevens, with a mischievous smile, said, “he’s got ‘em. He looks pretty good."

And that bodes well for a Boston team that’s expected by many to advance to the NBA Finals this season.

“He’s worked really hard,” Stevens said of Irving. “I think he’s excited … it’s good to see that.”

Irving has established himself as one of the top guards in the NBA and has shown himself capable of stepping up in the playoffs when needed.

A career 22.0 points per game scorer, Irving has averaged 23.9 points in the postseason, putting up at least 25.2 points per game in his last two playoff appearances (2016 and 2017).

But injuries and an infection in his left knee have led to him missing all or most of the postseason in two of the last four seasons.

“The one last year with us was such a shock,” Stevens said. “Just because of the unfortunate event with the infection.”

He won’t be the only Celtic who will be watched closely in training camp.

Gordon Hayward, who missed most of last season with a left ankle injury suffered in the season opener, has also looked good in workouts according to Stevens.

“He’s been really diligent all the way through his rehab and progressing to each step,” Stevens said of Hayward. “I watched him go all the way through the steps of working out to 1-on-1, 2-on-2, 3-on-3 and now he can play some of the open gyms some of the guys are having.”

Irving and Hayward, like most of the Celtics, won’t play major minutes in the preseason.

“I don’t think anyone will play a ton in the first week,” Stevens said. “That’s too quick. Usually you have five or six days before your first game. But to have three days and we play the second one right after that. We’re basically breaking our camp down from a staffing standpoint into two separate camps. The first one is, getting back together, making sure we’re fluid in what we’re trying to accomplish for the most part on offense and defense playing as a team through those first ten days when we have four games. And after that, we have a full eight-day period. We’ll basically treat it like another camp, as we get ready for the regular season. I don’t anticipate anybody hitting the 25-minute mark in any of those early games.”

Stevens knows not to put too much stock in what he sees early on from his players. This is especially true for Irving and Hayward.

 “I think like anything there’s going to be a period of adjustment,” Stevens said.

But that reality has to be balanced with an earlier-than-usual preseason schedule which will present its own unique sets of challenges.

The days of easing into the preseason, at least this year, are gone.

“If we’re not ready for the competitive side, that’ll smack us in the face pretty quick,” Stevens said. “But that’s part of getting ready for a season.”

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What makes Wanamaker, a 29-year-old rookie, a good fit for Boston?

What makes Wanamaker, a 29-year-old rookie, a good fit for Boston?

BOSTON – Brad Wanamaker is one of the few new faces on the Boston Celtics roster, but that’s OK. Unlike most rookies, Wanamaker is familiar with a couple of his new Celtics teammates (Marcus Morris from their days in Philadelphia, Daniel Theis from their time as teammates in Germany) which should help his acclimation to the team.

Familiarity helps, but ultimately it comes down to how well he plays on the floor.

So what should Celtics expect from this 29-year-old rookie?

GOOD DEFENSE

Because of his 6-foot-4, 210-pound frame, Wanamaker has good size defensively at both guard positions. There will be comparisons made between him and Marcus Smart in part because they both have a similar build, but let’s be clear: Wanamaker is a good defender, but he’s not in the same class defensively as Smart (at least not yet).

SHOT MAKER

Wanamaker is not considered an elite shooter, but he doesn’t suck, either. He shot 36.3 percent from three-point range in Euroleague play which isn’t that far off from what he shot (34.4 percent) during his four years at Pittsburgh. Shooting in the mid-30s from 3-point range would put him behind the likes of Marcus Morris (36.8 percent) and Terry Rozier (38.1 percent), but ahead of Guerschon Yabusele (32.4 percent), Semi Ojeleye (32.0 percent), Daniel Theis (31.0 percent) and Marcus Smart (30.1 percent). Regardless, Wanamaker is good enough to knock down lightly contested threes.

CLUTCH PERFORMER

Wanamaker seems to be at his best when the stakes are high. As a then-rookie in a Euroleague game, Wanamaker rallied his Brose Bamberg team – a team in which he played with current Celtic Daniel Theis – to a comeback win with 18 of his 25 points coming in the final four minutes of play. It was the kind of performance that set the tone for what was an international basketball career full of awards and accolades.

WINNER

Undrafted in 2011, it didn’t take long for Wanamaker to prove his worth against international competition. He has been among the best players in Europe for quite some time, evident by the amount of hardware he has received. The honors for Wanamaker include All-Euroleague Second team (2017); Turkish League champion (2018); Turkish League Finals MVP (2018);  two-time Turkish League All-Star (2017-2018);  two-time German BBL champion (2015-2016) and German BBL Finals MVP (2015). He even found success in his short D-League (now Gatorade League) stint, winning a title with the Austin Toros in 2012.

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