I have been thinking for some time about the 19 game win streak vs the 2-7 slump vs the 8 game win streak the Celtics are currently on. There is a difference between the team we have seen in each of these stretches. Sports tonight listed some numbers that bear this out, and being a math teacher, numbers always catch my attention and make things much clearer.
During the 19 Game Win Streak: Opponents points per game: 92.7 Opponents field goal percentage 43.1
During the 2-7 Slump Opponents points per game: 92.1 Opponents field goal percentage 43.6 During the Current 8 Game Win Streak Opponents points per game 89.8 Opponents field goal percentage 41.7
These numbers bear out the fact that the team that lost 2 out of 7 wasn't playing that much differently than the team that won the 19 games in a row. But, the team that has won 8 in a row in their recent streak is something else again.
The team that started out with the 19 game win streak wasn't playing as well as that record indicated. They won several of those games not because they were playing so well, but simply because the other team played worse. There were a lot of close wins and a lot of come from behind wins. But, during that stretch the Celtics weren't dominating teams, they were getting past teams.
In most of those games, the starters came out slow and the team got into a hole that they had to play themselves out of. In other games, they had big leads that they let other teams come back from to make the game close. Doc kept saying that even though they were winning, they weren't playing well. As the wins racked up and the streak reached 15, 16, 17, 18, and 19, it took more and more out of a team that was not performing at their peak to try to keep the streak going.
Then, came the Christmas day meeting with the Lakers. The Celtics had played more games than anyone else in the league. They were putting out massive efforts to win games in which they weren't playing their best and they were tired. The Lakers had been playing most of their games at home and had an easy schedule compared to the Celtics. The Celtics let up just a little and lost to the Lakers, who were treating the game like Game 7 of the Finals, which incidently they never made it to since the Celtics beat them in 6 games. And so, the streak was over and then they lost 7 of the 9 games in that stretch as teams saw a crack in the armor and were coming at the Celtics with all they had sensing that they could beat the Celtics if they played their best game. It wasn't that the Celtics were playing that much worse than they had played in their win streak, but now the opposing teams were playing better because they saw the Celtics as beatable.
After the Cleveland game, the Celtics regrouped, watched tape and most importantly, got some rest and practice time. And, they started playing more like the Celtics we saw last season than the ones that started this season. The starters are getting off to strong starts. The bench players are finding their niches and playing better and as a team they are putting teams away early and dominating games. And most importantly, that stifling defense that became their trademark last season is finally back.
This is the team that won the championship. Not the team that started the season. We could use some help in the form of a veteran big man. I don't think Marbury is the answer. First, he wants a bigger role than the Celtics are offering him. Second, I think we need a veteran big man more than we need another back up point guard. Eddie House has proved over and over that when it counts he is going to come up big and he is playing the best ball of his career right now. I have a feeling that Marbury will be more trouble than any help he gives us as a player.
There is no reason to think that this team won't continue playing at this level because the toughest part of the schedule is behind them. They have matched last season's record of 37-9, but they didn't play their 46th game of the season last year until February 9. They will have more rest and more practice time from now until the end of the season. They are back to playing their brand of defense that won them the championship. The sky is the limit from here on out and the numbers bear this out.