Is anybody getting a bit bored with the Celtics racking up all of these wins? No? Nobody’s over it? Oh, alright cool me either. Another week, another perfect 4-0 record. Boston has now won 12 straight games, a streak twice as long as that of any other team this season. There were many ups this week, but unlike previous weeks, there were some things to be concerned about too. Let’s dive in, and check out all the Ups and Downs of last week’s Celtics action!
Jayson Tatum Has the Clutch Gene
Tatum is now an integral part of the Celtics’ offense. Although the volume of shots aren’t there yet, the rookie has forced his way into more opportunities. Brad Stevens, who isn’t necessarily known for putting his faith in younger players, has thrown Tatum into the fire, and he is responding in a big way. With the exception of an injury scare, that limited him to just nine minutes against the Lakers, Tatum averaged 16.6 points last week, with some very timely buckets down the stretch of each game. A couple cold-blooded threes against Atlanta, and tough layups as the clock ticked down against Charlotte and Toronto, have shown that Tatum isn’t afraid of the moment. He is playing like a seasoned vet, and has the moves to prove it.
Oh my Jayson Tatum pic.twitter.com/JY5LMFe6Hc
— Kevin O'Connor (@KevinOConnorNBA) November 12, 2017
Terry Rozier Leading the Celtic Bench
Before the season started, I wrote about how Rozier was begging for more minutes, based on his preseason play. After leading the Boston reserves, and becoming a huge energizer off the bench, Rozier is proving me right. Rozier averaged 13.2 points, and 6.5 rebounds in the team’s four wins last week. He was playing big minutes down the stretch. With Kyrie Irving, Al Horford, and Tatum missing games, the Celtics were looking for people to pick up the scoring. Rozier took that challenge, and continued to crash the glass like almost no other guard can. His efficiency needs work (he’s shooting just 36.4 percent from the field), but given the opportunity, Rozier can make winning plays.
The Grit-and-Grind Celtics?
With Horford sidelined with a concussion, and Kyrie taking an inadvertent elbow from Aron Baynes just five minutes into the game, the Celtics looked dead in the water against the Hornets on Friday night. The team scored just 11 points in the first quarter, and could have easily packed it in. That isn’t the identity of this team. With their three best players out with injuries, the Celtics clawed their way back into the game. Physical defense, timely shot making, and big contributions across the roster, allowed Boston to get back into the game. They came away with one of their more impressive victories of the season.
As of right now, the identity of this team is defense. Players like Kyrie, and Tatum, can make the offense look beautiful, but the Celtics need to play hard, smart basketball in order to win games.
Enough With The Injuries!
It’s remarkable to see where the Celtics are, given how many injuries they have had to deal with. Gordon Hayward, Marcus Morris, and even Marcus Smart, have all missed games early in the season. This past week Kyrie (broken facial bone), and Horford (concussion), both went down. Horford missed two games and Kyrie is on his way back soon. It’s getting to the point where you hold your breath any time somebody hits the floor. Clearly the injuries haven’t slowed the Celtics down too much, but can we go a week without losing somebody else please?
Too Many Slow Starts
Blame this on the injuries if you so choose, but the Celtics have gotten off to some ugly starts this week. The offense has been slow and stagnant early on, and the team has dug themselves some early holes. Putting themselves down early like that, is eventually going to come back to bite them. Eleven points against the Hornets on Friday, and shooting just 33 percent in the first half against Toronto, are just a few examples. The Celtics play with such energy and passion, but they need to start bringing that at the beginning of games.
The Celtics Need More Offense
This may sound silly to say to a team currently on a 12-game winning streak, but the numbers don’t lie. The Celtics are winning with defense and effort, not with a high powered offense, or lights out shooting. Boston ranks 24th in points per game (102.2), and 28th in shooting percentage (43.1). Imagine if the Celtics can clean up the offensive execution, and match their defensive ranking. They would be a team nobody would want to face.
Boston is on a roll. A win against Brooklyn on Tuesday will send them into a matchup with the Warriors as winners of 13 straight. Stevens and the Celtics aren’t getting caught up in the hype. They just keep playing their game.
Brad Stevens on the streak:"It doesn't change how you prepare. … I think it breeds a desire to be more focused."
— Jay King (@ByJayKing) November 12, 2017