By: Kenny Doyle
The Celtics moved to 5-2 on the season, winning their 5th straight game as the beat the Spurs in Boston 108-94. The Celtics have gotten into a bit of a groove after starting the season 0-2. Since their losses to the Cavs and Bucks on back to back nights to open the season, the Celtics haven’t missed a beat, going 5-0 since.
After losing Gordon Hayward, no one would have reprimanded the Celtics if they had significant struggles through the first month or so of the season. They were already an extremely new team with a lot of young players, so a slow start seemed more than likely after losing one of their top 2 players so tragically. However, the Celtics young players have stepped up into their expanded roles and been major factors during the Celtics 5 game streak.
With or without Kawhi Leonard, the Spurs are going to be well coached, move the ball, and play good defense. It’s never going to be easy to beat a Gregg Popovich coached team. However, while San Antonio was lights out from deep, shooting 46% from three, they were an abysmal 39% from inside the arc and 50% from the free throw line in the game and Murray, Green, Anderson, Aldridge, Gasol, Gay, and Mills all shot under 50%. While no win against the Spurs comes easy, they played about as bad as they possibly could have last night.
From the Celtics side of things, Kyrie once again lit it up with 24 points through the first 3 quarters. Kyrie only played 2 minutes in the 4th and didn’t need to score with the Celtics up big thanks to a Terry Rozier solo run to put the game away. Kyrie has gotten better each and every game and just seems to be getting more and more comfortable in Boston. Scoring 24 points in 3 quarters should be just a hint at what Kyrie will be capable of once he really settles into his new role.
With Hayward out, a game like this is exactly the way the Celtics are going to try to score all season. Kyrie as the go to scorer, Jaylen as the second option, and a spark off the bench from Rozier should be enough to lead the Celtics to wins on most nights. A lot of games this season will look very similar to tonight’s. Jaylen’s continued emergence as a reliable option on the offensive end has been a god send to a Celtics team that desperately needed someone who could be a threat each and every night and Jaylen has already emerged as the frontrunner for most improved this year, but he isn’t the only Celtic that is making a strong case for one of the NBA’s most coveted awards.
Many doubted the Celtics could keep up with the top teams in the east after losing Gordon Hayward, but 7 games into the year they are tied for 1st place in the conference. This has been nothing short of a very encouraging week for the Celtics and that all goes back to Brad Stevens. With little time to adjust, Brad Stevens has turned this team that everyone was ready to write of back into one of the toughest teams to beat in the NBA. Stevens is already highly regarded as one of the best coaches in the league, but he looks like he’s well on his way to his first coach of the year award.
From here, the Celtics schedule only gets tougher. For the rest of 2017, the Celtics will only have 2 stretches where they have back to back off days. Other than that, they will play every other night for the next 2 months. The Celtics will have 40 their 82 games done in the first 2 and ½ months of the season, leaving the other 42 to be played over the final 3 ½ months. It’s an odd way to balance the schedule, but the Celtics will have many more off days in 2018 than they will before the new year. It’s going to be hard to keep this kind of winning pace with such little line to rest, but the Celtics have already proven through the first 2 weeks that they can adjust on the fly and fight through adversity. Nevertheless, no matter how good the Celtics are over the next 2 months, they should only be even better after January 1st.