On October 16, when Gordon Hayward went down with a horrific leg injury, the common assumption was that the sky was falling in Boston. This belief was supposedly cemented when the emotional Celtics dropped their home opener against the Milwaukee Bucks. Critics on channels such as TNT and ESPN used this opportunity to go after Kyrie Irving for his decision to leave Cleveland and LeBron James, as the Celtics seemed to be heading on a downward spiral. On the other hand, it appeared as if LeBron and his Cavs were well on their way to advancing to a fourth straight NBA Finals.
The funny thing about all of these supposed ‘experts’ who cover basketball is that they always come to the defense of the teams they prefer by saying that it’s an 82 game season. None of these experts who would give LeBron and his Cavs a pass every time they struggled bothered to properly look at the Celtics. They refused to believe that the Celtics had any chance of bouncing back after losing Hayward.
Here we are almost three weeks later, and the Celtics sit atop the NBA with an 8-2 record, after winning eight straight games (which is a record for teams that have started 0-2). Kyrie Irving and Al Horford have played lights out over the last 8 games, with their leadership paving the way for Boston’s success. The Celtics have also enjoyed solid contributions from unsung players such as Marcus Morris and Aron Baynes. In addition, one of the biggest factors for the Celtics’ sustained success over the last month has been the solid play of Jaylen Brown, Marcus Morris, and Jayson Tatum, who have boosted the team with the athleticism and maturity. The Celtics are also the second best defensive team in the league (after Houston), and have limited their opponents to no more than 94 points in the last 8 games. It is ABSOLUTELY impossible to understate the brilliance of Boston’s head coach Brad Stevens, as he has navigated the Celtics to the NBA’s best record after a season-altering play in the opener.
Boston has beat some quality teams over their eight game winning streak, including the San Antonio Spurs, Milwaukee Bucks, and the Orlando Magic. However, the resilience and mental toughness of the Celtics was on full display when they faced Oklahoma City a few nights ago. The team rallied back from an 18-point deficit, and closed out the Thunder in the fourth quarter, due to clutch performances from Kyrie and Horford.
How about those supposedly invincible Cavaliers? The Cavaliers have dropped to 4-6 on the season, after losing games to the lowly New York Knicks, Brooklyn Nets, and Atlanta Hawks (among others). Without LeBron’s incredible 57-point outing against Washington, the Cavs would likely be looking at a 3-7 record. Kyrie’s absence is clearly being felt in “The Land”, as the Cavs lack a true scorer to go alongside LeBron. Unfortunately, it is impossible to count out Cleveland due to one factor, which is undoubtedly LeBron James.
The Celtics play at Atlanta tonight, and then go back to Boston to welcome several teams, including Lonzo Ball and the Lakers.
To all the doubters out there, keep doubting the Celtics because come crunch time, Uncle Drew and his crew will make you pay!