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Boston Celtics not fretting recent downturn after 16-game win streak

From NBA media reports

The Boston Celtics visit the Charlotte Hornets tonight (7 ET, NBA League Pass) in the first of their final three games to close out the 2017 portion of this season’s schedule. The game is sandwiched between Boston’s Christmas Day loss to the Washington Wizards and tomorrow night’s showdown with the title-hopeful Houston Rockets (8 ET, TNT).

Losses have become a little more commonplace for the Celtics lately, as they are 5-6 in their last 11 games — a slide that has come after Boston was the talk of the NBA with a 16-game win streak. For veterans like Al Horford and Kyrie Irving, though, there’s no reason to panic during this rough patch in the season, writes Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald:

The big picture, though, is fine according to Horford.

“There’s not much difference,” Horford said. “I just think that you go through up and downs in a season. (Against Washington) I felt good about our chances. We put ourselves in a position to win the game and we weren’t able to do it. But we’re still the same team. I actually think we’re better, so . . .”

Which begs a question.

“How are we better? We’re 30-plus games in (37). We feel better as a group,” he said. “We know each other a little more. (Rookie Jayson) Tatum has more experience, our younger guys have more experience and we’re going to continue to get better. It’s a long season. . . . I felt like we had our chances there to kind of take the game (against the Wizards), and we just didn’t take it.”

To Irving, this run of losses is more about believing in the bigger picture and staying calm than watching the standings:

“I’m just going to make it clear, guys: I know it’s going to come with a lot of questions about the difference in our team and stuff like that. To clear it all up, we’ll be fine,” Irving said. “Things happen within the NBA season where you have to collect yourselves. As professionals, it’s our job, and I know it’s your job to ask these questions for us to fix a story about this team. It happens, and for us, as a young, developing team and as one of the leaders on the team, it’s my job to be unwavering with my approach. Preparation is still the same.

“Obviously, there are some things that we can control out there that we need to become better at — offensive rebounding, making sure that we’re sticking to the game plan, and that right there falls on the responsibility of all of us. As one of the leaders on this team, I’ll continue to demand it, and I know Brad (Stevens, the C’s coach) will be continue to do that as well. It hasn’t been one of the best stretches for us, but we have a resilient group. That right there is enough for us to continue to go on and make progress in the right direction of what we want to become. We’re all still developing our relationships and our roles.”