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

Bradley's emergence as vocal leader speaks volumes about growth

Bradley's emergence as vocal leader speaks volumes about growth

BOSTON –  Terry Rozier was having a rough stretch where his minutes were limited and when he did play, he didn’t play particularly well.
 
Among the voices in his ear offering words of encouragement was Avery Bradley who knows all too well what Rozier was going through.
 
For all his time as a Celtic, Bradley has let his work on the floor do the talking for him.
 
But as the most tenured Celtic on the roster, his leadership has to be about more than just getting the job done, but servicing as a vocal leader as well.
 
For a player whose growth from one year to the next has been a constant, being a more vocal leader has been the one dynamic of his game that has improved the most during this past season.
 
And it is that kind of leadership that will carry into the summer what is a pivotal offseason for both Bradley and this Celtics franchise which was eliminated by Cleveland in the Conference finals, the first time the Celtics got that deep in the playoffs since 2012.
 
He is entering the final year of the four-year, $32 million contract he signed in 2014. And it comes at a time when his fellow Tacoma, Wash. native and backcourt mate Isaiah Thomas will likely hit free agency where he’s expected to command a max or near-max contract that would pay him an annual salary in the neighborhood of $30 million.
 
At this point in time, Bradley isn’t giving too much thought to his impending contract status.
 
Instead, he’s more consumed by finding ways to improve his overall game and in doing so, help guide the Celtics to what has to be their focus for next season – a trip to the NBA Finals.
 
While Celtics players have said their focus has always been on advancing as far into the playoffs as possible, it wasn’t until this past season did they actually provide hope and promise that Banner 18 may be closer than you think.
 
It was an emotional time for the Celtics, dealing with the unexpected death of Chyna Thomas, the younger sister of Isaiah Thomas, just hours before Boston’s first playoff game this season.
 
And then there were injuries such as Thomas’ right hip strain that ended his postseason by halftime of Boston’s Eastern Conference finals matchup with Cleveland.
 
But through that pain, we saw the emergence of Bradley in a light we have seldom seen him in as a Celtic.
 
We have seen him play well in the past, but it wasn’t until Thomas’ injury did we see Bradley showcase even more elements of his game that had been overlooked.
 
One of the constant knocks on Bradley has been his ball-handling.
 
And yet there were a number of occasions following Thomas’ playoff-ending injury, where Bradley attacked defenders off the dribble and finished with lay-ups and an occasional dunk in transition.
 
Among players who appeared in at least 12 playoff games this year, only Washington’s John Wall (7.9), Cleveland’s LeBron James (6.8) and Golden State’s Stephen Curry (5.2) averaged more points in transition than Bradley (4.7).
 
Bradley recognized the team needed him to be more assertive, do things that forced him to be more front-and-center which is part of his evolution in Boston as a leader on this team.
 
“It’s weird but players like Al (Horford) definitely helped me get out of my shell and pushed me this year to be more of a vocal leader,” Bradley said.
 
And that talent combined with Bradley doing what he does every offseason – come back significantly better in some facet of his game – speaks to how he’s steadily growing into being a leader whose actions as well as his words are impactful.