Notes on the Celtics' winning streak

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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 rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

With Thomas drawing attention, Stevens turns to Rozier in big moment

With Thomas drawing attention, Stevens turns to Rozier in big moment

BOSTON – Prior to Saturday’s game, Terry Rozier talked to CSNNE.com about the importance of staying ready always, because “you never know when your name or number is going to be called.”

Like when trailing by three points in the fourth quarter with less than 10 seconds to play?

Yes, Rozier was on the floor in that scenario and the second-year guard delivered when his team needed it.

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But Rozier’s fourth quarter heroics which forced overtime against Portland, did not provide that much-needed jolt that Boston needed as the Blazers managed to fend off the Celtics in overtime, 127-123.

For Rozier’s part, he had 15 points on 6-for-13 shooting.

The 15 points scored for Rozier was the most for him since he tallied 16 in a 30-point Celtics win at Orlando on Dec. 7.

But more than the points, the decision by head coach Brad Stevens to draw up a play for him in that moment, a time when most of what Boston does revolves around the shooting of Isaiah Thomas who has been among the top-3 scorers in the fourth quarter most of this season, was surprising to many.

And at that point in the game, Thomas already had 13 fourth-quarter points.

Stevens confirmed after the game that the last shot in the fourth was indeed for Rozier, but Thomas’ presence on the floor was important to its execution.

“He (Thomas) also draws a lot of attention,” Stevens said. “So I think you just weigh kind of … what kind of shot you’re going to get, depending on who it is.”

Rozier had initially screened for Thomas, and Thomas came back and screened for him.

“I was open as soon as I caught … and I let it fly,” Rozier said. “Coach drew up a play for me and it felt good to see the ball go in.”

Being on the floor at that time, win or lose, was a victory of sorts for Rozier.

He has seen first-hand how quickly the tide can change in the NBA for a young player.

After a strong summer league showing and a solid training camp, Rozier had earned himself a firm spot in the team’s regular rotation.

But a series of not-so-great games coupled with Gerald Green’s breakout night on Christmas Day, led to his playing time since then becoming more sporadic.

Rozier, in an interview with CSNNE.com, acknowledged it hasn’t been easy going from playing regular minutes to not being sure how much court time, if any, he would receive.

But he says the veterans on the team have been good about keeping his spirits up, and one in particular – Avery Bradley – has been especially helpful.

Like Rozier, Bradley’s first couple of years saw his playing time go from non-existent to inconsistent. But Bradley stayed the course and listened to the team’s veterans who continued to tell him that his hard work would pay off sooner or later.

Those same words of wisdom Bradley received in his early days, he passes on to Rozier.

“It’s big,” Rozier told CSNNE.com. “He (Bradley) tells me things like that. I felt I was ready for this (inconsistent minutes) after all that he told me. It’s big to have a guy like him that has been through it all with a championship team, been around this organization for a while; have him talk to you is big. It’s always good. That’s why I stay positive, and be ready.”

Which is part of the reason why Stevens didn’t hesitate to call up a play for the second-year guard despite him being a 33.3 percent shooter from 3-point range this season – that ranks eighth on this team, mind you.

“He’s a really good shooter,” Stevens said of Rozier. “I think with more opportunity that will show itself true, but he made some big ones in the fourth quarter. We went to him a few different times out of time-outs, and felt good about him making that one.”

And to know that Stevens will turn to him not just to spell Thomas or one of the team’s other guards, but to actually make a game-altering play in the final seconds … that’s major.

“It helps tremendously,” said Rozier who added that his confidence is through “the roof. It makes me want to do everything. You know defense, all of that. It’s great, especially to have a guy like Brad trust you."