Notes on the Celtics' winning streak


Notes on the Celtics' winning streak

Well, that was fun.

In all, the Celtics win streak lasted seven games, and just about 14 days.

It began with Boston at 20-23, the eighth seed in the East, and closer to the lottery (two games) than they were the seventh-seeded Bucks (3.5 games).

It ended with Boston at 27-24, the seventh seed in the East, and now closer to hosting a first round series (three games) than they are to missing the playoffs all together (4.5 games).

Over the course of the streak, the Celtics played five overtime periods. The won 15 individual quarters, lost 12 and tied one. They beat the Heat. They beat LA twice. They got past the Kings, the Magic and the Raptors. They outlasted Denver in an instant classic. They pretty much saved their season. Or if that's too much, they rejuvenated it. They made basketball in Boston fun again for the first time since the Eastern Conference Finals.

Along the way, there were milestones . . .
Kevin Garnett became the 13th player in NBA history to appear in 1300 career games. He became the 16th player to score 25,000 points. For good measure, he surpassed Sleepy Floyd to jump into the all-time top 50 in career assists. Assists! The six-foot-12 Garnett now has 5184 career dimes; 13 more and he'll pass Kenny Anderson. (Although unfortunately, KG will need much more than that to hold his spot in the Top 50. He's currently only four assists ahead of Chris Paul, 53 ahead of Tony Parker and 103 ahead of LeBron.)

Moving on, Doc Rivers picked up his 400th career win with the Celtics. He's only the third coach in team history to reach that total. With 26 more, he'll leapfrog the little-known Tommy Heinsohn (427) for second place. Then, he'll need only 368 more to surpass Red Auerbach's franchise record 795.

Not to be forgotten: Fab Melo scored the FIRST two points of his NBA career, and extended his impressive streak of consecutive days without concussing himself on a door frame.

Along the way, there were awakenings . . .
Paul Pierce messed around for two triple doubles in two weeks, after recording only one in the previous seven years. Pierce averaged 18.9 points, 10.1 rebounds and 7.3 assists a game during Boston's win streak. Look at that again. OK, now one more time. His 71 rebounds are the most he's had over a seven-game stretch since the first seven games of the 2006 season. He recently recorded 10 rebounds in three straight games for the first time since November of 2005.

Garnett averaged 17.9 points and 9.7 rebounds and 3.1 assists a game. He was the guy from last spring, as opposed to the old man of this fall. He and Pierce combined to do numerous things that we were sure THIS TIME FOR REALLY SURE they were not still capable of.

Jeff Green averaged 14 points a game. He took and made an assortment of big time shots, and did so with confidence. He guarded LeBron; he guarded Kobe. And while he wasn't perfect, he was competitive. He never looked afraid. More importantly, he never looked a guy who just didn't give a damn. If nothing else, Green once and for all established himself as the Celtics best in-game dunker since his cousin Gerald.

Jason Terry finally started playing like Jason Terry . . . and acting like Jason Terry. He averaged 13.3 points a game, and finally looks like the fearless gunner we watched all those years in Dallas. He's rediscovered the JET swagger, and you can already see it infesting the locker room. Green's definitely adopted that edge. Same with Courtney Lee. And in both cases, it's done wonders for their game, and the overall chemistry of the team.

Avery Bradley's still Avery Bradley. Out there getting the crap beaten out of him every night, and seemingly loving every second of it. He averaged nine points, 3.6 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.3 steals during the streak, but more than numbers, Bradley is about attitude. He's about a singular focus every time he takes the floor, regardless of the opponent, and an inability to operate at anything less than full speed.

It's fair to wonder if that mentality might eventually catch up with Bradley. In some ways, you can argue that it already has. But for now, it's exactly what the Celtics need. It's part of a much bigger picture.

Along the way, there were questions . . .
Mostly, are the Celtics better without Rajon Rondo?

But the truth is that I'd rather challenge Nikola Pekovic to a 15-round oil wrestling match than delve into that right now. If there was nothing else to talk about, then sure, it might help pass the time. But the previous 700 words suggest that's not the case.

Are the Celtics better without Rondo? Who knows. All I know is that they went on one hell of a run without him. They also did it without Jared Sullinger, by the way. Why isn't anyone asking if the C's might be better without Sully? And what if they go on another run now, in the aftermath of Leandro Barbosa's season-ender? Will that mean that this whole time it was Rondo, Sully AND Barbosa at the heart of the Celtics problem? (I'm just joking. Please no angry e-mails. Those really hurt my feelings.)

And now that the streak is over, there's a little bit of regret. . .
I mean, the Celtics blew it last night. They blew an extremely winnable game to an extraordinarily bad team. The streak should be at eight right now. This postmortem shouldn't even be a glimmer in my eye. The Bobcats? They had a four point lead with less than 1:30 left and blew it against the Bobcats? Yes. Yes they did. And that's a shame. It's missed opportunity. A waste of Pierce and KG's legs. Coming off eight straight wins, the vibe at the Garden would have been off the charts on Wednesday against Chicago.

Of course, it will still be a great atmosphere. Even with last night's choke job, how can anyone be disappointed with what this team has shown and given back to Boston over the last two weeks?

Quick trivia: How many win streaks of seven or more games did the Celtics record in the 10 years before KG, Ray Allen and Gabe Pruitt showed up in Boston?

That's a ridiculous question, so I'll just give you the answer: TWO.

Two seven-game winning streaks in 10 years, and in both cases Boston lost the eighth game.

Quick trivia II: How many win streaks of seven or more games did the Celtics record in the FIVE years after KG arrived?

The answer is nine. Nine winning streaks of seven or more games, and among them was a 19-game, a 14-game, and a 12-game streak. At some point along the way, crazy win streaks became somewhat normal, and less astounding than we were accustomed. But there's no question that this latest seven-game run Boston's first since 2010, and the 10th overall in the Garnett Era was appreciated with every step, and will be remembered long beyond this season.

It'll be remembered for the drama of two multiple overtime victories. For knocking off both the Heat and Lakers, in dramatic fashion, on national TV, in front of the Boston crowd. For the emotions involved with losing a starting point guard . . .

And then a promising young rookie. And now a scrappy veteran guard, who's done for the season and maybe his career.

We'll remember the way the team came together in the face of more adversity than any group should have to deal with, and at the very least, we'll use that memory to stay sane over the All-Star break and remain optimistic for the second half of the season.

Hey, it was a great run.

An unlikely run.

An unforgettable run.

A season-saving run? I don't know.

A season-starting run? I kind of like it, but I'm pretty sure the Lakers have already trademarked that concept.

Either way, it was a ton of fun, and it's too bad that it's over.

Seriously, guys. The Bobcats?

Rich can be reached at Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

NBA Notes: League seems to be on upward surge in interest and ratings


NBA Notes: League seems to be on upward surge in interest and ratings

For so many years the NFL has had an almost impenetrable veneer in the way it has successfully pivoted away from a myriad of scandals that would have at the very least delivered a significant, noticeable blow to most professional leagues.

But that Teflon-tough image has taken a whacking of late with the league dealing with what has been for the most part an across-the-board ratings dip in its programming.

The NFL’s slide comes at a time when the NBA seems to be on a upward surge in terms of interest and ratings.

Kevin Durant’s decision to leave Oklahoma City and play for Golden State is a needle-mover across the NBA landscape. LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers are looking to defend their NBA title – a phrase no one thought they would ever hear even when James signed on for a second tour of duty – will certainly generate tons of interest.

The Boston Celtics added Al Horford to a team that many believe will be among Cleveland’s stiffest challengers, in addition to being a team that has played Golden State as well as anyone the last couple of years.

There are many hands responsible for the NBA having such a strong position on the professional sports landscape, chief among them being former commissioner David Stern.

He was in town last week as part of the Shamrock Foundation’s annual Gala.

Stern gave a rundown of what he’s been up to since passing the commissioner’s torch to Adam Silver.

He said he has been a senior advisor to a venture capital firm, counsels several start-up companies and of course a senior advisor to the NBA.

But it’s what he’s not doing – negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement with the player’s union – that seemed to bring him the most joy.

“That’s when I got the least amount of sleep,” quipped Stern.

But those sleep-deprived marathon sessions with owners and union leaders, have helped bring the league to where it is today – thriving with its players and the profits both seem to be reaping.

That’s why the reports of the NBA and the player’s union being close to coming to terms on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement, make a lot of sense. The NBA or the player’s union can opt-out of the current CBA prior to Dec. 15, although that’s looking less likely to happen because of what should be a new deal that better reflects the economic changes that currently exist in the NBA.

This past summer saw the salary cap in the NBA balloon to $94.14 million after having been $70 million for the 2015-2016 season.

With both NBA players and owners profiting significantly from the new TV deal, most of the changes to come about (paying players on the rookie scale more money; increasing the dollar amounts for veteran’s minimum and team exception contracts) are just common sense rule changes that have both sides closer to getting something done sooner rather than later.

And while he’s not directly involved in any of the current dealings, what he accomplished prior to retiring as commissioner certainly laid the groundwork for what appears to be a relatively smooth negotiation period.

“I didn’t project anything other than I was leaving it in the most spectacular of hands with an All-Star executive cast and they would just do what’s right for the league and they have,” Stern said.

And as far as the current talks that have reportedly been ongoing for months, Stern understands all too well that the last CBA talks which led to a shortened, 66-game season led to changes that has both players and owners feeling better about current negotiations.

“I’m proud to say the league has gotten to a very good place in terms of the player’s share, the owner’s share and where they can all see this is something that pays to keep going,” Stern said. “It’s fun to watch from a distance and not be involved.”



So much for that logjam in the frontcourt for the Philadelphia 76ers. The latest big man to go down with an injury is Nerlens Noel who recently had “minor” surgery on his left knee that will sideline him for reportedly three-to-five weeks. Keep in mind that the Everett, Mass. native missed his entire rookie season following left knee surgery, although the Sixers indicate this was an arthroscopic procedure and is considered minor. He joins No. 1 overall pick Ben Simmons who suffered a foot injury that’s expected to keep him out until at least January. That means a lot of the trade rumors involving Noel (and Jahlil Okafor to a certain extent too) should cool off for a little bit.



Signing with Toronto during the offseason was supposed to be Jared Sullinger's chance at a fresh start. Unfortunately for him, things are looking a lot like they did in his early days in Boston. Concerns about his back dropped his draft-day stock from a likely lottery (top-14) pick, to falling in the Celtics' lap at No. 21. During his rookie season, he played well but had to have season-ending back surgery. With the Raptors, it appears he will miss some time early on due to a foot injury that occurred in the team's first preseason game which has kept him out of action ever since.  

“May be a little while before he comes back,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey told reporters recently. “He may get checked out just to see what else is going on.”

Sullinger’s weight was an issue during his time with the Celtics. It’s unclear what impact if any, it had on his current injury or whether it’s a factor in the injury keeping him out indefinitely. 



We have seen Metta World Peace (formerly known as Ron Artest) in lots of different basketball roles from hitting big shots to just hitting people.

But as a coach? That is reportedly being discussed by the Los Angeles Lakers brass as they try to trim their training camp roster down to 15 players.

MWP is likely on the outside of the 15-man roster now, but the Lakers still want him to be part of the organization. While it may seem a bit of a stretch at first, he does bring a wealth of basketball experience to the table, a player how has seen the highs and lows of the game in a way few players can fully understand or speak about with a great amount of credibility.



The LaMarcus Aldridge trade talk will be one of the storylines this NBA season. The Boston Celtics will continue to be discussed as a possibility, but the team to watch is the Phoenix Suns. They came close to convincing him when he left Portland for San Antonio. Phoenix provides him a team that can be built around him (which he wants), lots of shots (which he wants) and a team with no pressure on his back to lead them to major success (yup, he wants that too). … Michael Carter Williams’ stock seems to continue to tumble after winning the league’s rookie of the Year award. He’s going into his fourth season and he’s already on to his third team. … Multiple league executives believe Devin Booker is the best 20-and-under player in the NBA right now. He's good, but I'd probably take Minnesota's Karl-Anthony Towns.

Bradley continues adapting, improves ball-handling and court vision


Bradley continues adapting, improves ball-handling and court vision

WALTHAM, Mass. – Just like Avery Bradley comes back each season with a new element in his basketball tool box, defenses have adapted to some degree to try and counter whatever Bradley is doing a better job at.

Before it was take away the mid-range shot and make him a 3-point shooter. Now it’s run him off the 3-point line by closing out hard and fast against him.

Well, running him off the 3-point line is actually playing into the hands of two areas of Bradley’s game that have seen significant growth during the offseason: ball-handling and court vision.

Bradley’s improvement in those areas has been evident in the preseason, something the seventh-year guard hopes to continue in the regular season opener on Wednesday against the Brooklyn Nets.

“I worked on my ball-handling a lot,” Bradley said. “Instead of doing all the Kyrie (Irving) stuff that trainers have people do, I tried to focus on just one or two moves, just perfecting a few moves that I can put into my game.”

What we’ve seen from Bradley is better sense of when to attack players with his ball-handling and when to use it as a set-up to get his teammates good shots.

He attributes both to the work he has put in and just becoming an older, more wiser player on the floor.

“I’m able to make plays for my teammates because I’m a lot more confident in my ball-handling, in my play-making and my decision-making," said the 25-year-old Bradley. "I feel a lot more comfortable out there.”

While it may not seem like that big a deal that Bradley’s putting the ball on the floor more and attacking off the dribble, it’s actually really important for this Celtics team.

With Bradley now looking to attack off the dribble more, that means that the Celtics now have a starting five – Isaiah Thomas, Bradley, Jae Crowder, Amir Johnson and Al Horford – with each player comfortable and confident in their ability to take most defenders and their respective positions, off the dribble.

That makes Boston a significantly better team offensively in terms of being highly unpredictable and to a larger degree, tougher to contain.

“He’s a great defender, one of the best in the NBA,” Boston’s Amir Johnson told “But people sleep on his offensive game. He can hit the corner 3s, wing 3s, pull-up jumpers … he can pretty much do it all out there. Now that he’s looking to get to the rim more, that just makes him and our team really, much better.”

Indeed, Bradley sounds as though he plans to continue probing different ways to generate points for the Celtics.

One approach he’ll surely take is to do a better job of taking advantage of the mistakes defenses make against him, like players who try and chase him off the 3-point line.

“Me being  a better 3-point shooter should challenge me to think the game a little more,” he said. “If it’s drawing fouls … I know I should be drawing more fouls from the 3-point line. There are times when people are just running out of control at me at the 3-point line. I have to be smarter.”

Bradley added, “I worked on that this summer. It’s translated in practice, so now it needs to translate in games.”