NBA — Sixteen nuggets from Boston Celtics’ wild 16-game winning streak


The Boston Celtics‘ winning streak had recently reached double digits and, after a satisfying win over the Toronto Raptors, coach Brad Stevens was doing his best to downplay the growing hype around his team’s run.

These Celtics, Stevens pleaded, were not sitting around talking about their accomplishments. Inside the Celtics locker room, that sentiment was relayed to third-year guard Terry Rozier, who pondered it for a moment.

“We don’t talk about [the streak],” Rozier started, before a smile appeared and he slightly amended his statement. “When [Stevens is] not around we do.”

The Celtics have now won 16 straight games, and the entire league is talking about Boston. Celtics players are well aware of the absurdity of the streak, particularly the way this team has routinely rallied from double-digit deficits.

Boston was supposed to sink from the top of the Eastern Conference after Gordon Hayward‘s season-ending ankle injury just minutes into last month’s opener at the Cleveland Cavaliers. Instead, it has been more than a full calendar month since Boston lost a game, and the Celtics stand three wins shy of matching a franchise record for consecutive wins.

With a win on Wednesday night at the Miami Heat, the Celtics would match the third-longest winning streak in team history (17 games, 1959-60 season). While Stevens won’t let his team look beyond Wednesday’s contest, the only teams with longer streaks in Celtics history were the 1981-82 squad that won 18 straight and the 2008-09 team that took 19 in a row.

How exactly did these Celtics get here? Here are 16 nuggets from Boston’s 16 wins:

1. The defense never rests: In a league where triple-digit scoring is en vogue (the NBA scoring average is north of 105 points per game, per ESPN Stats and Information data), the Celtics are winning with defense in holding teams to an absurdly low 94.8 points per game. Boston owns a league-best defensive rating of 95.8. For the sake of comparison, the San Antonio Spurs led the league last season with a defensive rating of 100.9. Boston traded away two of its best individual defenders in Avery Bradley and Jae Crowder, but it has thrived after replacing them with stretchy wings Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. Early in the season, Boston guards would scour postgame box scores to see who was winning a steals competition while embracing the defensive end.

2. The offense starts slow: The Celtics are basketball procrastinators, only cranking up their offense when they have to. Boston has ranked in the bottom third of the NBA in offensive efficiency all season. The Celtics have a propensity to start painfully slow, as evidenced by an offensive rating of 95.2 in the first halves this season (only the Sacramento Kings and Chicago Bulls, with a total of seven wins between them, have been worse). And yet Boston owns an offensive rating of 111.2 in the second halves of games, which is second only to the Golden State Warriors (119.7).

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