The magical win streak is over, coming to a halt in Miami. It stretched to 16 games, just 3 shy of tying a franchise record. Even this close to re-writing significant parts of an illustrious Celtics history, Brad Stevens couldn’t find a reason for high praise just yet.
“We haven’t played well enough to consider this win streak to be valid in my opinion. We’ve figured out ways to win games. We gotta play a lot better.”
Team chemistry is coming along nicely. Stevens is starting to find pairings that work together, but overall it is still a work in progress. No one knew what to expect out of the C’s this year, especially after Hayward’s injury. Since, they have proven they are a team that is ready to play every night. These C’s will still be a force in the playoffs, even if they are underdogs. That’s how it’s been since Stevens arrived in 2013, and his teams have overachieved every year since. This new group is showing they are no different; they will fight until the end, just as in years past. The streak showed these guys are able to fight through adversity whether it be big picture or in-game situations. Despite the amazing feat, the Celtics know they can play a lot better.
“It wasn’t like we were necessarily dominating during the streak. But the will of this team is something that needs to be accounted for.” -Al Horford
The players are staying humble and focused on the right things despite some unexpected early season success. Oh, and that Celtics Pride? Yup, it’s still around. This team has fought and found ways to come back with their back against the wall. Four times during the streak they came back from a 16+ point deficit, including a road game in OKC and a 3rd quarter 19-0 run against the Warriors. They almost did it again in Miami in an improbable 4th quarter comeback from down 18. Getting it all the way down to 1, they fell just short, effectively ending the streak.
The streak was fun while it lasted, but now, the hard work can begin. The Celtics have barely had a chance to get on the practice court since training camp, playing every other day for over a month. They just had their first two-day break before the 76ers game since the streak started back on October 20th. The team knows it still has a lot to improve on. If history is any indication, more progress is on the horizon. It is going to be scary once this team truly finds its groove, on both sides of the ball.
CAN THEY PUT ANOTHER BIG STREAK TOGETHER?
There is no reason to believe this Celtics team won’t win a lot of games, even in bunches at times. Do they have a chance to break the franchise record of 19 games in a row? They probably got as close as they’ll get to that mark this year, but they do have potential to go on another big streak. This is especially true with some soft spots in the schedule that have yet to come.
The month of December is pretty light aside from road trips to San Antonio & Detroit early, followed by home games against the Wizards & Rockets later in the month. They should catch the Spurs still without Kawhi Leonard, and will be ready for the rematch against the Pistons, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see them pull off a decent streak in December. A revenge game against the Heat at home should be fun as well.
The biggest obstacle the Celtics overcame during their 16 game streak was having to play every other day. The situation is the same throughout all of December, so fatigue might start to set in at some point. It’s inevitable that the Celtics lose to some sub-.500 teams. If they do pull off another streak, I’d look for it to be in the new calendar year as they start to get more rest in between games. They will have to get some quality wins, as the schedule tightens up a bit later in the season. This will only make a 10+ game win streak look more legit than the first one.
The biggest thing is going to be keeping the focus level high game to game. The focus continues to be daily progress and playing the right way, as Stevens likes to say. It sounds simple, because it is. Stevens lays out the path for these guys to do the right things to improve and play within the system; it is simply up to them to follow through. They showed they could do this during the 16 game streak, but doing it over the course of an 82 game season is another story. Still, it has been impressive how they’ve been able to turn it on night in and night out, even in games it seems like they have no business winning.
What do you think? Will the Celtics go streaking again?