BOSTON — You can attribute the current Boston Celtics win streak to any number of things.
Over the last 10 games, the Celtics finally started making shots — 40.4 percent of their 3-pointers, and 49.3 percent of their shots overall. The offensive rating has rocketed up to unsustainable levels, as the Celtics wax opponents by an average of 19.1 points. The defense has been strong. The new starting lineup has been killer, and the bench has been nearly equally so. The comically easy schedule for the last 10 games hasn’t hurt either.
But Gordon Hayward, when asked about the recent success after Friday’s cushy 129-108 win over Atlanta, said the biggest difference is the Celtics are more connected.
“We’re really playing together, and we’re connected on both ends, especially when we’re communicating defensively,” Hayward said. “Then we don’t have to walk the ball up the court and can get some easy stuff in transition. That makes us even better, to be connected like this.”
There isn’t really a stat that proves Hayward’s point. The team’s assist rate has stayed largely flat throughout the season, and while the offensive numbers have spiked, the looks have largely stayed the same (they are just falling, finally).
The real answer might be fairly simple: The Celtics took some time to coalesce into a functioning unit (not something that surprised Celtics coaches), and now that they have started winning, they feel a lot better. Winning teams generally feel pretty good.
“Our communication is at an all-time high, guys are moving the ball and the ball is not sticking,” Morris said. “We’re scoring it and we’re playing really well. It’s fun out there and I think you can tell from the outside looking in that guys are buying into what’s going on. We’re just trying to win games, man.”
In addition to Boston’s eight-game winning streak, the Celtics have won nine of their last 10. Losses can happen on any random evening, and the Celtics face a tough test on Saturday in Detroit, playing a .500 squad on the second night of a back-to-back. After three days off, the Celtics play the intentionally floundering Phoenix Suns (who may or may not employ someone named “Brooks” over the weekend) before matching up with the Milwaukee Bucks. The Celtics beat the Bucks once at home, but Milwaukee is a tough test of the Celtics’ recent success. Even if the streak is broken prior to that game, watching how the new lineups perform against an actual contender might be telling.
After Friday’s win, Kyrie Irving was asked whether the Celtics are finally back on track.
“I don’t think we ever were on track,” Irving said. “I think we were still trying to figure out what that track looked like for us. It’s an everyday thing though and how gradual it is to be a great team. One misstep, one injury, one thing here and you just live in the moment and you take advantage to have that opportunity to play with everyone every single night. You go out and beat teams, having fun doing so.”