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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Boston Celtics vs. Miami Heat live stream: Watch NBA game online

Boston Celtics vs. Miami Heat live stream: Watch NBA game online

The Boston Celtics and Miami Heat will clash at AmericanAirlines Arena on Tuesday night in a matchup of Eastern Conference powers.

These are two of the five teams jockeying for playoff position from the No. 2 seed down to the No. 6 seed. The five teams in this range of the East standings are separated by only 2.5 games. The Heat are in a second-place tie with the Toronto Raptors at 32-14, while the C's are in fourth place at 30-15.

The Celtics don't have a signature road win this season, and Tuesday's game against the Heat is a great place to earn their first. It won't be easy, though. Miami is one of the league's best home teams with a 21-2 record on its own court. The Heat also have the second-best 3-point shooting percentage in basketball, so the C's will need to defend the perimeter at a high level to leave South Beach with a victory. 

Another factor going against the Celtics is injuries. Veteran center Enes Kanter already has been ruled out and star forward Jayson Tatum is doubtful to play. 

The Celtics lead the season series 1-0 after a 112-93 win in Boston last month.

Here's how to watch NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics vs. Heat, beginning at 7 p.m. ET. Tip-off is scheduled for 8 p.m.

HOW TO WATCH

Listen and subscribe to our Celtics Talk Podcast>>>

ANALYSIS AND REACTION

BEFORE THE GAME: At 7 p.m., Celtics Pregame Live presented by TD Bank gets you ready for the game with reports from Kyle Draper, Tommy Heinsohn, Brian Scalabrine, A. Sherrod Blakely, Chris Forsberg, and Abby Chin. Watch on NBC Sports Boston or click here for the live stream.

AT HALFTIME: Tune in to watch a breakdown of the first two quarters on Halftime Live presented by Ace Ticket. Watch on NBC Sports Boston or click here for the live stream.

AFTER THE GAME: As soon as the game ends, tune to Celtics Postgame Live presented by New England Ford for analysis, commentary and player reaction. Watch on NBC Sports Boston or click here for the live stream

Questions on our livestream? Get all your questions answered here on our Streaming FAQ.

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Forsberg: Kobe's impact on Tatum hard to quantify

That 617 Life Podcast: Honoring Kobe Bryant and his impact on the NBA

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NBC Sports Boston photo

That 617 Life Podcast: Honoring Kobe Bryant and his impact on the NBA

The death of Kobe Bryant stunned the sports world on Sunday and sparked a plethora of reactions and tributes to the Los Angeles Lakers legend around in the NBA.

It didn't matter whether you were a Lakers fan, a Boston Celtics fan, or a fan of any of the other 28 teams in the league. Regardless of whether you loved Bryant or hated him for being the villain against your favorite team, you had to respect him.

On the latest edition of the "That 617 Life" podcast, noted diehard Celtics fans Leroy Irvin, Shanda Foster and Cerrone Battle explained how their respect for Bryant went far beyond the C's rivalry with the Lakers.

Irvin discussed how he and Celtics fans everywhere had to dislike Bryant throughout his 20-year NBA career, but everyone in Boston had the utmost respect for him as a player.

Deep down inside, we respected him. Just on the surface, we didn't acknowledge it. We didn't want to acknowledge it. But deep down inside, we knew what he meant to the game. And that hurt a lot.

Bryant was 41 years old, and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna also was involved in the helicopter crash along with seven other victims.

LIVE stream the Celtics all season and get the latest news and analysis on all of your teams from NBC Sports Boston by downloading the My Teams App.

Foster lamented the tragic loss of a legendary figure, his daughter, and seven others who were taken far too soon.

At the end of the day, he's a legend. And no one ever wants to see a legend gone before their time. It's always tragic. It's always traumatic, but when it's way before their time it's more tragic. And I'm not even adding into the fact his daughter was there and, you know, the additional victims of this.

Battle added to Foster's takeaway, noting how the Bryant family's tragedy hits close to home.

I think part of the emotion was, dude, he was the same age as me and you. He was 41 with four kids. I'm soon to be 41 with four kids and a wife.

Forsberg: Kobe's impact on Tatum hard to quantify

There's more Kobe Bryant discussion where that came from in this week's episode of "That 617 Life" podcast on the NBC Sports Boston Podcast network. Click here to listen and subscribe.