BOSTON – As Brad Stevens said following the Celtics' 117-109 loss to the Knicks, there’s plenty to be thankful for.
Of course, but that still doesn’t make it any easier for Celtics fans, who are still trying to digest how a team pegged for greatness this season has delivered one head-scratching, ghastly performance after another.
In keeping with Stevens’ mantra, we’ll take a look at some things that - despite being a surprise .500 team (9-9) - the C's have reason to be thankful for.
There’s a long laundry list of issues that the Celtics have to work out in the coming days and weeks before they can really feel good about trending in the right direction. But one thing we know will get better for them is their schedule.
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The season began with nine of their first 13 games on the road, which was followed by three straight at home. Boston now begins a stretch with four of its next five games on the road, but the opponents in that five-game stretch are all below-.500 (Atlanta, Dallas, Cleveland and Minnesota), with the exception of the New Orleans Pelicans. So, there’s the opportunity to get back on track against some beatable teams - which is exactly what this team needs.
KYRIE IRVING'S PATIENCE
The more Kyrie Irving talks, the clearer he becomes about his intentions to battle through this team-wide malaise the Celtics are currently in the middle of right now. Having been on really bad teams in Cleveland as well as some great ones, he has a perspective on what’s happening that’s uniquely different than anyone else on the Celtics roster. Slowly but surely, this team has to embrace the reality that they’re going to have to play harder for longer stretches if they are to be successful. And Irving seems all-in on being the guy to be the catalyst of that transformation, seemingly no matter how long it’ll take.
While there are players with better numbers than Morris, there isn’t a single Celtic that has elevated their play and been more consistent than Morris this season. His numbers are on the rise in just about every significant statistical category. Still, what he does more than anything else is impact the game. And he does that by scoring, rebounding, and with his defense. It’s the kind of all-around play that has been in short supply among his teammates. As inconsistent as Boston has been this season, it’s kind of scary to think how bad things would be if not for Morris’ strong season.
Scoring is up all across the league this season (well, almost everywhere. Right, Boston?), which has had a trickle-down effect statistically for many, including the Celtics.
Their defense has been a mainstay near the top of the league most of this season, even though both the eye test and words of the coaches and players suggest it hasn’t been nearly as good as their defensive ranking.
Still, for them to be among the league’s best defensively - even when opposing guards have gone through them like a broken turnstile - bodes well for their chances to really put the clamps on teams once they start playing more on the same page.
The Celtics are clearly not where they want to be. Fortunately, there’s still plenty of time to get on track and have a strong regular season that can result in an even stronger run in the playoffs than we’ve seen in recent years.
As we mentioned earlier, the schedule will loosen up soon with more home games against teams that the Celtics should fare better against.
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“This is some adversity we’re facing right now,” said Al Horford. “Honestly, I never want to go through this but this is the time. It’s still early enough we’re addressing it and we need to be able...if we want to do anything, we need to be able to overcome this that we’re dealing with.”
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