Quality Wins, Superstardom & Resiliency Have Taken C's To New Heights

SALT LAKE CITY – Since the start of the 2014-15 season, the Boston Celtics have never had a more impressive stretch of regular-season play than their last five weeks.

That, at least, is according to the longest-tenured Celtic, Marcus Smart.

“For me being here, it’s No. 1,” Smart said Wednesday night, after the Celtics quieted the Jazz for their 14th win in their last 17 games, dating back to Jan. 20. He added, “I think the way that we’ve been playing is at top-notch level since I’ve been here.”

Now some, including Jayson Tatum for a brief moment Wednesday night, will point to Boston’s 16-game win streak at the start of the 2017-18 season as more impressive. But not even that run was as convincing as the wave the Celtics are currently riding. The reasons why are threefold.

First and foremost are the raw wins.

Boston has won 14 of 17, and nine of those wins have come against teams currently qualified for the playoffs. Six of the teams that Boston has beaten are currently seeded sixth or higher in their respective conference.

The C’s are beating great teams thanks to strong play from every player who’s in the rotation.

“Everybody’s playing well,” Tatum said Wednesday. “Everybody’s contributing.”

For comparison’s sake, the 2017-18 streak featured only seven wins over eventual playoff teams.

The next reason why this stretch is most impressive is because the Celtics now have a bona fide superstar on their roster who is torching opponents and dominating games.

Jayson Tatum has made the leap – err, leaps – this season. He has gone from budding star, to All-Star, to superstar in a matter of months.

Tatum is averaging 29.0 points per game since Jan. 20. He has scored at least 25 points during 11 of the 14 games in which he’s appeared, and he has scored at least 30 points during six of those games, including Wednesday’s 33-point performance in Utah. Tatum is averaging 30.5 PPG during February, the fifth-highest average in the NBA.

Again, for comparison’s sake, Boston’s leading scorer during the 16-game win streak was Kyrie Irving, at 22.9 PPG.

Lastly, but maybe most important to Boston’s success, is the fact that this Celtics team is showcasing a championship level of resiliency.

Amid this stretch since Jan. 20, Kemba Walker has missed seven games, Enes Kanter has missed five games, Jaylen Brown has missed four games, Tatum has missed three games, Smart and Daniel Theis have missed two games, and Gordon Hayward has missed one game.

That’s 24 games missed by seven of arguably Boston’s top eight players. Yet here the Celtics are, winners of 14 of 17 after an impressive win against the Jazz.

Boston just keeps finding ways to win, as it did in convincing fashion Wednesday night despite facing a long list of obstacles.

“It’s a big win on a back-to-back in a tough environment against a team that was desperate for a win,” said Brown, who forgot to mention that the C’s were also without Walker, were playing for the third time in four nights, and were closing out a West Coast swing at high altitude. “It don’t get too much better than that.”

It most certainly does not, and that’s why the Celtics are flying back to Boston with a confidence level that has reached new heights.

Over the last five weeks, this Celtics team has beaten many of the top teams that the NBA has to offer. It has watched its 21-year-old phenom turn into a superstar. It has showcased a championship level of resiliency.

Trust the words that came out of Smart’s mouth Wednesday night. This is the most impressive stretch of regular-season basketball that the Celtics have played in recent memory.

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