BOSTON -- The Boston Celtics said it all at the beginning of the season.
The team was a work in progress.
It was going to take time for the new players to gel.
Each member had to learn their role and buy into the system.
Finding consistency wouldn't happen overnight.
In the second week of January, things are coming together.
The Celtics (19-17) beat the Houston Rockets (21-16) on Friday next to extend their winning streak to five games. After a dismal west coast road trip in which they lost to the Los Angeles Clippers, Golden State Warriors, and Sacramento Kings, the Celtics rebounded from a loss to the Memphis Grizzlies and have gone on to defeat the Indiana Pacers, Atlanta Hawks, New York Knicks, Phoenix Suns, and the Rockets.
The rhythm of their season has changed in a week. Veteran captain Paul Pierce has been around long enough to know winning would take time.
"I feel good," he said following the Celtics 103-91 victory. "I feel like we are building. We're getting better and better."
Avery Bradley's return from double shoulder surgery last Wednesday has given the Celtics a new surge of defensive intensity. Not only that, he has brought consistency to their starting lineup rather than fellow guards Courtney Lee and Jason Terry changing frequently changing their roles.
Rookie forward Jared Sullinger has also played beyond his NBA experience and given the Celtics a board crasher they have been looking for over the years.
All of these factors have added up to produce a more consistent team on the court.
"I think there's a lot of little things," said head coach Doc Rivers. "We've decided to defend as a group full time and stay committed to it. Avery's return has helped. The second unit now has a second unit -- JET's not in the first unit or Courtney. It's pretty solidified who the second unit is, so now when we practice that group's always together."
The Celtics will look to make the most of the remaining three games in their homestand next week. They will face the Charlotte Bobcats, New Orleans Hornets, and Chicago Bulls.
"We will take it one game at a time in this homestretch," said Pierce. "Hopefully we can just keep it going."