When Atlanta went on their 8-0 fourth quarter run to go up 96-95, it was starting to feel like the Celtics were just due for a loss and it was going to come to the Hawks. They had won 8 straight, they were playing their third game in four nights, and they as the 4th quarter rolled on they looked tired and sluggish. Then, Kyrie Irving and Jayson Tatum took over.
Although the Hawks are not very good, this might be the Celtics best win of the season. Playing 3 games in 4 nights all on the road will weigh on a team and it would have been easy for the Celtics to have a "schedule loss" against a well coached Atlanta team off the high of beating the Cavaliers, which these days is looking like less and less of an accomplishment. Well most of the Celtics had tired legs, Irving and Tatum saved their winning streak and allowed Celtics fans to avoid having to back track all their tweets making fun of the Cavaliers loss to the Hawks.
Tonight was Kyrie's first 30-point game and it may have surprised some Celtics fans to hear before the season that it would come in the 11th game, but the Celtics would still be 9-2. Kyrie has tried to focus on fitting into the Celtics ball movement system and, aside from the first Milwaukee game, has tried to not shoot as much as he used to in Cleveland. Kyrie's assists are already up from his career average and as he gets more comfortable in the Celtics system and with his new teammates, those numbers will only get better.
For Tatum, he lived up to the lofty Paul Pierce comparisons tonight. For the first time this season, Tatum showed off the clutch gene in the final minutes and finished with 21 points on 7-13 shooting. If Ben Simmons didn't sit out his rookie season, it would be Jayson Tatum leading the early season rookie of the year race. His impressive all around play has already led to NBA GMs around the league calling him the best player from the 2017 draft.
The league is going to have to start to take notice of the Celtics win streak, now at 9, which is already longer than the longest win streak they had last year (7). It'd be hard to see that win streak getting much higher than 14 with the Celtics matchup against Golden State on the horizon, but with the way the Celtics are playing now, it's hard not to acknowledge them as the best team in the East.
Photo: (Boston Herald)