PHOENIX – It’s early in the season, no doubt, but the Boston Celtics are showing signs that they are one special group.
The latest sign arrived Monday night in Phoenix, where the Celtics dominated the previously 7-4 Suns one night after an emotional defeat in Sacramento.
Boston bounced back by swallowing up the Suns with a dominant defensive performance that spearheaded a 99-85 victory. The fact that such a performance was put forth a day after the team’s 10-game win streak came to an end on a heartbreaking miss at the buzzer let Brad Stevens know that this group has an “it” factor inside its locker room.
“We talked about it,” Stevens said of the importance of bouncing back. “We talked about: the special teams I’ve been around don’t let yesterday’s loss linger. They get right back at it.”
And that’s exactly what Boston did in Phoenix.
The Celtics struggled out of the gates, making just one of its first 10 shots of the game. The C’s committed ugly turnovers, they fired up a couple of airballs, and in general, they looked very much out of sync. But Boston stayed the course and eventually found its way.
Midway through the second quarter, everything began to click and the C’s rattled off a 19-4 run that gave them a 57-42 lead heading into halftime. That portion of the game built a wave of momentum for Boston that never died. The C’s, behind a true team effort, cruised to a victory from that point on to get back into the win column and regain a share of the NBA’s best record.
“That’s very, very encouraging,” Stevens said of the performance.
There is reason to put great stock into this victory, to which Stevens quietly alluded. This was the first opportunity the Celtics had all season to show their ability to move forward on the second night of a back-to-back after a defeat the previous night – let alone an emotional defeat like the one they suffered Sunday.
The fact that Boston passed its first such test with flying colors against a talented and successful opponent was a confirmation of what the team has believed all along: that its mental strength and togetherness is as good as it gets.
“You’re not going to win every game,” said Kemba Walker, who tallied 19 points and five assists during the win, “but when you have opportunities to bounce back and learn from mistakes, and you actually come out and do it – it just feels good, and it lets you know about your team and the guys you’re playing with.”
Walker, who in his first eight NBA seasons never experienced the type of success Boston has through its first 13 games, then unknowingly used the same “s” word that his coach mentioned minutes before while describing the best teams he’s ever been around.
“We have a special group, man,” he said, “and for us to not hang our heads on that loss yesterday and really just come out tonight and play against a really good team here at (its) home and to be able to come out with a win, that was big-time.”
In the standings, Monday will only count as one win, but this victory felt far more important than just a single notch. It was a confirmation that this group of Celtics has something brewing inside of its locker room – something special.
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