Blakely: Celtics making up for talent with effort

Blakely: Celtics making up for talent with effort
November 12, 2013, 1:15 am
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BOSTON — You've got the Miracle on Miami aka Jeff Green's buzzer-beater from Saturday night.

Then there's the fact that the Boston Celtics are eight games into their schedule and have had a lead in the fourth quarter of EVERY SINGLE GAME!!

That's such an anti-tanking thing to do, don't you think?

While there is a small faction of "Riggin for Wiggins" Celtics fans out there, they're going to be very disappointed because this Celtics team is going to win a lot more games than expected.

It has nothing to do with them being more talented than as advertised, or Brad Stevens coming up with some out-of-this-world Xs and Os that leaves teams beaten down or befuddled.

Their success comes down to one thing - effort.

And so far this season, they have brought more effort - more consistently - than their opponents.

When you combine that with a good coach and smart players, you get a four-game winning streak like the one they are riding right now.

Don't get me wrong.

This team isn't winning a championship this year, and they will be hard-pressed to even make the playoffs. But the journey between now and the end of the season is going to be a fun one for one reason - they come to play every night.

And when you do that, you're going to have nights like Saturday when you beat a two-time champion or on Monday when you pummel a team that on a lot of levels is comparable to your squad.

There are just too many intangibles and a growing number of tangibles, to believe the Celtics are going to be one of the NBA's worst teams record-wise this season.

The fact that they have kept every game close, the fact that they now know how to put away teams either scoring the ball or locking down defensively, it breeds realistic hope that this rebuilding process won't be as long as anticipated.

The fact that they have won four straight means little to me. More impressive than that has been their entire body of work this season.

No one should get overly excited about being 4-4, especially not around here where it's all about championships. But the way the Celtics play now has to send a chill or two down the spine of other teams who already know Boston is going to probably out-work them and position themselves to be victorious in the final minutes of play.

And the more you watch them play, the clearer it becomes this is EXACTLY the kind of team that Stevens has won with time and time again at Butler.

The Celtics don't have the most talent.

They don't have a dominant superstar.

All they have is a bunch of guys who show up everyday who can work you into the ground, all game long, and get up the next day ready to do it again.

That has not only raised the profile of the Celtics in NBA circles, but with that comes raised expectations.

When I asked Stevens about those raised expectations now that the Celtics have ran off four straight wins, he said he handles those high expectations, "same way you handle the low ones."

Stevens added, "You just try to get better everyday and do your job, and you can't put too much thought into what other people expect of you because there's another team out there, too. And they're pretty darn good."

It's one thing to pull off a few upsets to start the season. But when you start seeing teams a second time around, that's when you really get a sense of how you stack up and how well you can handle teams adjusting to what you do that works.

That's why Monday's win over the Magic was in many ways more impressive than the buzzer-beater over Miami.

The Celtics faced the Magic just 72 hours earlier and squeaked out a 91-89 victory, their first road win of the season.

To see that same team again and beat them even worse the second time around, speaks volumes about how this Boston team is not one to take opponents lightly and will position themselves to exceed the expectations of many because of one reason - effort.

They bring it at the highest of levels, every night.

And other teams don't.