The Boston Celtics have won eight games in a row and now sit at sixth place in the Eastern Conference. Before this winning streak, they had yet to win more than three in a row. Things are looking up, to say the least.
With injuries and COVID-related absences plaguing their season early on, there was a serious lack of consistency. Outside of these past eight games, the regular starting five had barely played any games together.
“I think we took our lumps early finishing games. Like I said the other day, the team has always responded well to being challenged. Even in the games we were losing, the way we were losing early, I was always optimistic because we did build big leads with people in and out of the lineup. The team never stopped fighting or stopped playing the right way.”
The Celtics hovered around .500 for the majority of the season before this recent surge. Fans and media began to question not only the team’s ability to play together, but Udoka’s fit as the head coach.
When Udoka was hired, it was mentioned that the team wanted a coach who would hold them accountable. And while he was questioned early on, Udoka stated that his belief and love for this group never wavered.
“They’ve bought in on the defensive side of the ball effort-wise, offensively sharing it. You see the difference as far as that. It just takes a little time, it’s not going to happen overnight and I understand that. And so, once they all buy-in, and like I said, they’ve all been receptive to coaching and criticism and challenging them, and so I love the group for that.”
The rookie head coach now has the C’s eight games above .500 and in a prime position to fight for home-court advantage in the playoffs. But he’s not the only one who deserves the credit.
A couple of weeks ago, Al Horford mentioned that Jaylen Brown was beginning to speak up a bit more in the locker room. When asked, Brown explained his methods. He said that it’s less about dominating the conversation and more about finding a healthy balance.
“It’s just more about the energy and effort that you’re applying. You can lead with your voice and you can also lead by example. Trying to find different avenues and definitely letting my voice be heard a lot more.”
He also made sure to show his teammates some love. Brown said that he’s proud of his team for fighting through their early season struggles.
“But I’m enjoying the challenge and I’m enjoying this team, this group that we have. And I’m proud of our group. We’ve had some tough stretches, but we’ve been able to put some good games together.”
Brown’s running mate, Jayson Tatum, also chimed in on the topic of Boston’s recent play. In the months leading up to the trade deadline, there was a lot of talk about whether or not this core of guys could work.
The three-time All-Star was asked about whether or not he feels some sort of vindication after being questioned all season long.
“I’m going to tell y’all I told you so when we win a championship one day. But until then, anything less than that is just the process of getting there.”
Boston faces a huge test on Tuesday night as they take on the Philadelphia 76ers at the Wells Fargo Center at 7:30 p.m. in what will likely be James Harden’s first game as a Sixer.