BOSTON — The first 20 games were rough for the Boston Celtics. The preseason favorite to represent the Eastern Conference in the NBA Finals limped out of the gate to a 10-10 record, as the C’s offense struggled to find cohesion and their defensive was grilled by a number of opposing guards.
The last four games have been a different story, though. The Celtics now have won four games in a row after Thursday’s 128-100 shellacking of the New York Knicks, a team that beat the once struggling Celtics 15 days ago.
Kyrie Irving admitted after the game the Knicks are one of a few teams the Celtics need to exact a little revenge on after an early-season loss.
“You know I was thinking about it,” Irving said after the win about Boston’s loss to the Knicks on Nov. 22. ” Since we lost to them, there are a few teams that we owe. I still remember certain players on other teams asking us what’s going on, you know, when we were 10-10. So, yeah, keep that same energy.”
We can hardly blame opposing players for asking what the rest of the NBA world was thinking. Now that the Celtics appear to be hitting their stride, Irving and Co. are having fun dishing out payback.
“Yeah, I’ve talked about it before we should have fun kicking people’s ass,” Irving said. “We should, we really should. It should be — competition itself should bring out the best out of you. The way you bring the best out of your opponent is you play at a certain level where they either match it or they exceed it or they don’t do anything at all and they just give up.”
Over the last four games, the Celtics have looked to be a happier, looser team and Irving noted the biggest change in the team’s approach starts with having fun.
“I think the important thing to take (off) our shoulders early on was just how much of the fun we weren’t having,” Irving said. “It just wasn’t fun. It just wasn’t good basketball. We weren’t cheering for one another. We weren’t doing the little things. I know certain guys would probably be fearful to talk about it, but it goes on in every NBA locker room. Those guys have egos or guys think they have the best way of winning. The coaches have their best way, you have the GM and president and everybody feels like they have an ego in this.
“All in all, we just want the best for one another so I think at this point we’re just playing with a sense of effort where now it’s not so much about who’s playing or who has more talent. It’s about who’s going to give that effort every single time down? Who’s going to demand it from one another and hold each other accountable? When you go from there, you start building some great championship habits.”
Here are more notes from Celtics-Knicks:
— Irving appeared to tweak his shoulder in the fourth quarter, but the guard said it was just a weird play and he’ll be alright.
— Aron Baynes left Thursday’s game in the first quarter with a left ankle sprain and did not return. Head coach Brad Stevens didn’t have an update after the game but noted the Australian center isn’t one to let anything slow him down.
“In typical Baynes fashion, he said he’ll do three-on-three drills tomorrow after he does full-court sprints and runs a marathon and then he’ll get ready for the flight, then he’ll play on Saturday,” Stevens said after the game. “But I don’t know if our doctors agree with that so we’ll see. But, Baynes thinks he can play through anything.”
— Jaylen Brown scored 21 points off the bench in his first game back from a back injury that sidelined him for the past four games.
— Boston has a 123.4 offensive rating and a +22 net rating during its four-game winning streak. Both lead the NBA over that span.
Thumbnail photo via Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports Images