Gordon Hayward returned from a two-game absence due to illness and the Boston Celtics didn’t skip a beat in rolling to their eighth consecutive victory on Friday night.
Boston raced out to a 22-5 lead and never looked back as they coasted to a 129-108 victory over the Atlanta Hawks. The Celtics’ eight-game streak is tied for the longest in the NBA this season, and it’s the franchise’s second-longest winning streak since 2011-12.
The Cs spread the wealth offensively with five players scoring at least 18 in the game, with Kyrie Irving leading all scorers with 24 points. Gordon was extremely efficient off the bench in a very balanced offensive effort from the Celtics, scoring 19 points on 7-10 shooting, including a perfect 3-3 from three-point range.
The Celtics have really hit their stride of late, boasting a perfect 6-0 record to start the month of December. Boston’s last loss came on November 24 in Dallas against the Mavericks.
Not only are the Celtics winning games, but they have been dominating their opponents for the most part, with all but two wins on this streak coming by double digits. The recent performances from Boston show just how dangerous they can be come playoff time. With so many different options and so much depth, they have just overwhelmed their opponents during the winning streak.
“We’re really playing together, and we’re connected on both ends,” Hayward said, “especially when we’re communicating defensively.”
Perhaps most importantly for continued success, is that guys are having fun playing with each other and buying into the culture that Brad Stevens has created. With so much talent everyone is going to get open looks and opportunities within the offense. Against Atlanta, Marcus Morris took advantage by knocking down 6-8 threes in the game on his way to a 20-point night, while Jayson Tatum scored 22 points efficiently.
“It’s fun out there,” forward Marcus Morris said, “and I think you can tell from the outside looking in that guys are buying into what’s going on. I think guys are believing in each other and coming together and just understanding our roles.”
Other nights will provide Jaylen Brown, Al Horford, Terry Rozier or Marcus Smart the opportunity to shine bright in a long, 82-game season, and the players know they will all get their chance.
Most importantly, however, they are focused on winning games, and they know they will need everybody for a playoff run.
While the Celtics have impressed of late and already shown major improvements from the beginning of the season, Stevens still thinks his team hasn’t reached its ceiling yet.
“We feel a lot more comfortable with where our spots are,” Stevens said. “You can tell they’ve got a good feel for playing together. And yet there are still some groups that I think could play even better. So that’s encouraging.”
The Celtics will look to extend their winning streak when they travel to Detroit to take on the Pistons on Saturday.