Celtics

A. Sherrod Blakely's Takeaways: Walker's successful return bolstered by his Celtics teammates

A. Sherrod Blakely's Takeaways: Walker's successful return bolstered by his Celtics teammates

Don’t miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Spurs, which tips off Saturday at 4:30 p.m. ET with Celtics Pregame Live, and then Mike & Scal have the call of the game at 5 p.m. You can also stream the game through the MyTeams App.

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Putting too much stock in the first couple weeks of the NBA season falls under the proceed-with-caution umbrella. 

Still, it’s hard for Celtics Nation to not feel that we’re witnessing the genesis of a special kind of season for the C's, who extended their winning streak to six following a 108-87 win over the Charlotte Hornets. 

The victory not only extended their streak but also improved them to 6-1, tops in the Eastern Conference. 

It’s still early, of course.

And just as the Celtics steamrolled their way towards six consecutive wins, that momentum and positive energy could easily go south.

But this team has come into the season with an even-keeled, handle-your-business-and-keep-it-moving swagger that has shown no cracks even as they deal with one injury after another. 

And when they’re not popping guys in and out of the rotation, they are welcoming guys back to the mix, which creates another type of challenge that coach Brad Stevens would gladly accept. 

Regardless of the challenge, the opponent or whatever else might be going on or off the court, this team seems as locked in as any Stevens team we’ve seen when it comes to being the best version of themselves on the floor. 

Here are three takeaways from the win at Charlotte:

GORDON HAYWARD  

After a near-perfect scoring night at Cleveland on Tuesday, Gordon Hayward delivered yet another strong all-around performance. And while Hayward continues to get questions about whether he’s back from a brutal injury two years ago, the 6-foot-8 wing is well past such inquiries. Instead, the question he needs to be asked more now is whether he’s better now than he was prior to arriving in Boston.  Against the Hornets, he tallied a double-double of 20 points (on 9-for-16 shooting) along with 10 rebounds and six assists without a single turnover. Hayward will be challenged to continue his red-hot shooting ways at San Antonio on Saturday when the Spurs will surely look to minimize his impact, which has been exceptional lately.

KEMBA WALKER

The emotions for Walker being back in Charlotte would have been an easy explanation for his first-half struggles. But here’s the thing: Kemba has struggled with his shooting in the first half of most of this season only to bounce back with a strong performance and finish with a more-than-respectable final tally. He finished with 14 points and six assists. Now that he has the return game out of the way, look for Walker to be more like himself as the Celtics move on to San Antonio.

JAYLEN BROWN 

After missing the previous three games with an illness and later an infection, it wasn’t clear how much - if at all - Brown would play against the Hornets. Not only did Brown suit up, but he wound up playing more minutes (33) than any other Celtic, tallying 12 points on 5-for-9 shooting while doing a solid job defensively on all the Charlotte players he wound up defending, which included ex-Celtic Terry Rozier, who missed 10 of his 11 shot attempts. Boston will try and close out their three-game trip at San Antonio, which will be led by DeMar DeRozan, whose mid-range shooting game will be tough for the Celtics to slow down. Having a healthy Brown back will help. 

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Celtics Report Card: Sobering marks as 10-game winning streak ends

Celtics Report Card: Sobering marks as 10-game winning streak ends

The Celtics were inches away from becoming the first team in NBA history to rattle off an 11-game win streak after an opening night loss.

But Marcus Smart's floater at the buzzer didn't fall, and now the C's sit at 10-2. 

Call it an overreaction and maybe this week's grades would be a bit cheerier if Smart’s layup dropped for another undefeated week, but it wasn’t a particularly inspiring seven days for the Celtics. 

Despite their 3-1 record, Boston let the lowly Wizards put up 133 points on the parquet and fell behind by 15 points to a Warriors club with the worst record in the NBA.

Now the C's have to bounce back from their second loss of the season as their road trip continues against the Suns, Clippers, and Nuggets, who own a combined record of 24-12.

But before we look ahead, let's take a look back.

Click here for the Celtics Report Card from Week 4.>>>>>

Don’t miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Suns, which tips off Monday at 8 p.m. ET with Celtics Pregame Live, and then Mike & Scal have the call of the game at 9 p.m. You can also stream the game through the MyTeams App.

NBA picks: Celtics vs. Suns betting predictions, plays against the spread

NBA picks: Celtics vs. Suns betting predictions, plays against the spread

The Boston Celtics aren't invincible, after all.

The Celtics had their nine-game winning streak snapped Sunday in Sacramento against the Kings when Marcus Smart's floater at the buzzer rimmed out.

Boston's 100-99 defeat was the team's second consecutive loss against the spread, as the C's only beat the Golden State Warriors by five on Friday night.

Will that trend continue on stop No. 3 of the Celtics' west coast road trip? The C's are road underdogs for just the fourth time this season for Monday's game against the upstart Phoenix Suns, who are 7-4 on the young season.

It's an intriguing scenario, so we'll dive right in with our moneyline, point spread and point total picks for Celtics-Suns, then give you our two NBA locks against the spread.

(All odds provided by WestGate Superbook.)

Boston Celtics at Phoenix Suns, 9 p.m. ET

Moneyline: The Celtics' offense has looked pedestrian without Gordon Hayward on the start of this road trip. The Suns are giving up points in bunches, though, and this has the feel of a bounce-back game for a Boston club that got humbled in Sacramento. Put your faith in the Celtics (+145) to win outright. 

Point Spread: The Suns are much-improved, but they're not as good as their 7-4 record. The Celtics are 5-2 on the road and nearly beat the Kings despite a quiet night from Kemba Walker. Expect Walker, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown to power the Celtics (+3.5) to a win as road underdogs.

Point Total: Phoenix has allowed 112 points or more in four consecutive games. That's a good sign for a C's team that has mustered just 199 points over its last two contests. The OVER has hit in six of these teams' last 10 meetings, so I'll roll with the C's and Suns surpassing 226.5 points in a shootout.

Darren's record picking the Celtics' moneyline, point spread and point total: 16-10-1

NBA Locks of the Night

Cleveland Cavaliers (+3) at New York Knicks: The point spread is the only reason why you should watch this matchup of Eastern Conference cellar-dwellers. The Cavs are 7-3 against the spread this season and have shown some fight despite their poor record. The Knicks continue to be hopeless.

Oklahoma City Thunder at Los Angeles Clippers (-10): Paul George will have the sole objective of getting buckets in his first game against his former team. The Clippers also are 7-1 against the spread at home, and Kawhi Leonard could return after sitting out the last two games. Take the home team to the bank.

Darren's record picking NBA locks against the spread: 10-7-1

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Don’t miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Suns, which tips off Monday at 8 p.m. ET with Celtics Pregame Live, and then Mike & Scal have the call of the game at 9 p.m. You can also stream the game through the MyTeams App.