The Boston Celtics entered the day on Monday as one of only thirteen teams in the league boasting a winning record, which is even more impressive when you consider that they have also played one of the toughest schedules to open the season.
Opening the season at home against the Philadelphia 76ers was a gift that should have gotten the Celtics rolling out of the gate, but a convincing win to get the year started was followed by three straight losses. As discouraging as that early losing streak was, we have to remember that those losses came against the reigning division champion Toronto Raptors, the perennially contending San Antonio Spurs and an Indiana Pacers team that was bound to bounce back this year with superstar Paul George back in the lineup.
Since then the Celtics have won four of their last five, including back-to-back impressive wins over the Atlanta Hawks and Oklahoma City Thunder. Granted OKC was playing without Kevin Durant, but they are still a dangerous team without him. Russell Westbrook has a habit of turning into an unstoppable triple-double machine whenever his fellow superstar is sidelined, but the Celtics managed to do an admirable job of containing him on Sunday to get the win.
Boston has played more games against teams that currently have a winning record than anyone in the league. While their 2-6 record in those games may be uninspiring, we can still be encouraged by the fact that the Celtics are beating up on the teams they are supposed to beat and at least remaining competitive against their most challenging opponents.
BOS (2-4) has played the most games w/in the group of 13 teams w/ winning records. TOR (4-1) & IND (3-2) have the most wins.— John Schuhmann (@johnschuhmann) November 16, 2015
Despite being only one game over .500, the Celtics still rank third in the East and sixth overall with a +5.6 point differential. Their No. 4 ranked defense prevents them from being blown out, while all five of their victories have been by double-figures. They obviously aren't going to win every game, but they are going to put up a fight in all of them.
Here's another fun tidbit to exemplify Boston's early success. Evan Turner ranks third in the Eastern Conference with a 9.2 +/- rating, while Kelly Olynyk isn't far behind with a +7.9 rating that ranks seventh. Boston joins Cleveland and Miami as the only teams in the East to have multiple players in the top-10 in that category.
A glance at the upcoming schedule shows that the road ahead becomes a bit lighter. Their remaining November schedule includes a pair of contests against the dismal Brooklyn Nets, an Orlando Magic team still waiting to ripen, the struggling Washington Wizards and another meeting with the winless Sixers. There are a lot of opportunities for the Celtics to pad their record over the next couple weeks, which should lead to a rise in the standings.
Every season has it's share of challenging stretches, but one of the more difficult ones on the calendar this year happened to come early. The Celtics have weathered the storm and come out with a winning record, which bodes well for this team moving forward.