The Boston Celtics are perhaps starting to show the kind of teamwork they've been looking for all season.
Star guard Kyrie Irving said Wednesday that a team meeting held after a Dec. 21 home loss to the Milwaukee Bucks helped players to clear the air about several topics.
"We could pinpoint a lot of turning points," Irving told reporters after last night's win vs. Indiana, per ESPN's Tim Bontemps. "We just want to build that chemistry first. Just getting with one another, really put everything out there and then move on from that point.
"At that point, playing against Milwaukee, we weren't at rock bottom, but we needed to address some [expletive] in this locker room. It's just good to get stuff out in the air. As grown men and guys that have expectations for themselves, it was good to hear guys talk about what they wanted for themselves and what they wanted for this team."
The Celtics dismantled the Indiana Pacers 135-108 to notch their fourth straight win, with the victory coming largely because of Boston's willingness to share the ball. The victory marked their fifth straight game with at least 30 assists (after failing to reach that mark in nine of their previous 10 games). Since Dec. 23, the Celtics rank No. 2 in assist percentage (70.2) and are among the league leaders in offensive rating, net rating, true shooting percentage and more during that span.
The Celtics had 32 assists last night and put together their highest scoring game this season. Boston (25-15) also ended a three-game skid against the Pacers, who entered the night third in the Eastern Conference having won seven of eight. Additionally, Boston led 68-53 at halftime after shooting 56.5 percent (26 for 46) in the first half.
That Dec. 23 date is an important one, since it was Boston's next game after the Bucks loss that capped off a three-game losing streak. After that loss to the Bucks, the Celtics were mired in the lower-half of the Eastern Conference standings and had their team meeting.
The Celtics have seen a slight uptick in pace (they rank 18th in that category overall) since Dec. 1, and are getting more comfortable in terms of team chemistry. Overall, Boston has won seven of its last nine games to stay within striking distance of the upper crust in the East.
''We're all understanding that we're trying to play faster and the ball movement has been working for us,'' said Al Horford, who led Boston last night with eight assists. ''It keeps the defense on their toes, really makes the other team work. It's kind of contagious.''
“Well, you see the type of connection that we have out there in terms of our pick-and-roll and what we do and how we talk is pretty seamless,” Irving said, per Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald. “We came in the same time and have this understanding of where our journeys have started and where it is now and an appreciation of where we are. So we just want to take full advantage of it for this year.”
Since Thanksgiving, the Celtics are No. 1 in offensive rating, have a net rating of 11.2 (tops in the NBA) and are 16-6 (the best record in the league). In short, Boston is finding its way -- at least over the last few weeks -- and developing chemistry with a roster filled with talent.
“It was hard to find good clips at the start of the year,” coach Brad Stevens said, per the Boston Herald. “And I think some of that was because we were pressing; some of that was because we missed shots when the ball was moving. All looks a little bit better when it finishes with a make, but that’s who we have to be."
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.