The Celtics have come a long way since their Nov. 20 loss at home to rival Orlando.
“I think we’re really starting to get into our groove right now,” Paul Pierce said after Thursday night’s win against the Spurs.
With that victory, they’ve won six straight, including another impressive road win over Miami, and have soundly defeated their last four opponents by an average of 11 points.
They’ve also exploded on offense, scoring 104.3 per game throughout the current win streak, and have reinvested in defense, giving up just 85, 90 and 83 over the past three tilts.
What a difference two weeks make.
To be sure, the C’s were floundering in mid-November, losing three of four in a rough patch that began with a Nov. 13 loss to Atlanta and ended with the aforementioned discouragement against the Magic.
Over that week, the Celtics were — in a word — awful. They mailed it in on defense, allowing lowly Indiana to drop 113 on them, and seemed completely out of sync on offense, posting just 86 and 78 points against the Hawks and Magic, respectively.
To an extent, then, the Green’s turnaround is a simple case of battening down the hatches and showing up to play. And that level of energy derives, as it has since 2007, from one Mr. Kevin Garnett.
And he has certainly brought it of late. Over Boston’s last five, KG is averaging 31 minutes, 18.2 points (on a ridiculous 72 percent shooting), 6.6 boards and four dimes. Through his first 14 games? Thirteen points on 50 percent shooting, seven rebounds and 2.3 assists.
Think he’s starting to feel more comfortable on that reconstructed knee?
And the Big Ticket’s been that much bigger in tough road games, dropping 24 in Miami on a nearly perfect 11-of-12 mark from the field before a posting 20-point outing Thursday in San Antonio.
“You can see it coming. Kevin is coming, Kevin is coming,” coach Doc Rivers said after KG’s team-high performance in Miami. “I think it will continue to be small steps.”
That extra effort from the defensive captain has, no doubt, inspired the rest of Boston’s bigs to do the same. Kendrick Perkins has become Mr. Double-Double, logging three of them during the current win streak and averaging 15 points and 9.7 boards over that span.
His defense has been even better. The 25-year-old is posting better than two blocks per contest over his last six and now sits at fifth in the league in that category.
“Guys are locked in, it’s a great focus right now,” the C’s center said after the win over the Spurs. “Guys came on this road trip to get wins.”
That focus has filtered right on down to each of the secondary bigs, as well. Rasheed Wallace has seven blocks in his last four games and has declared his purpose on this team to be a defensive stopper, and Shelden Williams has continued to pound the boards, now averaging better than 10 rebounds per 36 minutes of play.
The result? Boston’s big men are killing it. KG and Perk are posting a plus-11 and plus-12 during the streak, respectively, and opposing big men are getting hammered.
Tim Duncan on Thursday: Minus-10 as he barely saw playing time down the stretch. Tyson Chandler on Tuesday: Minus-14, five points. Jermaine O’Neal on Sunday: Minus-7, no assists, no steals, no blocks.
All told, the Celts’ opponents are shooting about 44 percent during Boston’s six-game streak. No doubt, those marks will only get better once Glen Davis returns to the lineup — and word is, that could be happening soon.