November 24, 2017 10:52 PM
The Boston Celtics' story right now defies logic.
They spent the summer ripping up a team that was the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs last season. They won the Gordon Hayward sweepstakes and got to have the All-Star for all of five minutes before a gruesome injury ended his season. They started 0-2 and are 16-0 since.
It makes minimal sense.
Here's where it gets even odder: The NBA's best team right now, by far, can't shoot a lick.
The Celtics are interrupting this era of pace-and-space, go-go-go basketball for what might actually be considered a throwback idea. They're winning games — every game for more than a month — with defense and rebounding, both of which have been stellar and obviously compensate for Boston ranking 27th out of 30 teams in shooting.
Boston will try for its 17th straight win on Wednesday night in Miami.
"The streak doesn't mean anything to me," Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. "Maybe it does to the guys in the room. But it's about finding ways to get better, and finding ways to get the job done."
They're finding those ways now.
The Celtics shot 33 percent and beat Golden State, which doesn't happen. They haven't been outrebounded in any of their last 14 games. They've led at halftime in only three of their last 10 contests, but have been great at winning time — no team has outscored Boston by more than four points in a second half all season.
"Whether it be our first unit or our second unit, we demand excellence from one another," said Celtics star Kyrie Irving, who had 47 points in an overtime comeback win over Dallas on Monday and needed only 22 shots from the floor to get there.
Boston's record is so good, the shooting woes can (and perhaps should) get overlooked.
— The Celtics are shooting 43 percent this season; only Sacramento, Dallas and Chicago are worse.
— They're shooting 58 percent near the rim, the second-worst mark in the league.
— They're 18th in 3-point percentage and 25th in 2-point percentage.
And really, so what? All the other numbers show how the Celtics are winning.
Entering Tuesday, Boston was No. 1 in scoring defense (94.8 ppg), No. 2 in field-goal percentage defense (.429) and No. 3 in 3-point defense (.321). The Celtics have allowed 100 or more points only five times this season, the fewest in the NBA. They've held teams to 95 or fewer points 11 times — as many as the Pistons, Pelicans, Magic, 76ers, Nets, Cavaliers and Suns have combined.
So yes, defense does still matter.
Here's hoping people didn't overreact to some fast or slow starts. Things have changed quickly for plenty of teams, things changing for the better in some cases and for the worse in others.
Boston — started 0-2, now 16-2.
Cleveland — started 5-7, now 10-7.
Orlando — started 6-2 and 8-4, now 8-9.
Memphis — started 5-1, now 7-9.
Utah — started 5-3, now 7-11.
L.A. Clippers — started 4-0 and 5-2, now 5-11.
Warriors forward Kevin Durant isn't sure if he'll play Wednesday night when Golden State visits Oklahoma City, while he deals with an ankle injury.
He's past the whole KD-is-back-in-OKC angle either way.
"This is just a regular game for me now," said the former Thunder All-Star who is in his second season with the Warriors.
Whether Durant plays or not, the game will have plenty of star power. The NBA pointed out that the matchup could have seven reigning All-Stars, five members of USA Basketball's team that won gold at the 2016 Rio Olympics, and the winners of the last four MVP awards — Durant in 2014, Stephen Curry in 2015 and 2016, and Russell Westbrook last season.
THE WEEK AHEAD
Other than the streaking Celtics going for No. 17 and Warriors-Thunder on Wednesday night, here are some of the games to watch this week:
— Trail Blazers at Nets, Friday: A noon Eastern tipoff in Brooklyn means 9 a.m. in Portland. Get that Black Friday shopping done early, Rip City.
— Raptors at Pacers, Friday: Something about that Indiana air still works for Victor Oladipo. He's averaging 23 points for the surging Pacers.
— Knicks at Rockets, Saturday: New York has been one of the good stories this season, and a win in Houston would give the Knicks another boost.
— Lakers at Clippers, Monday: The Clippers started 4-0, and that's been long forgotten. They clearly need Danilo Gallinari back in the worst way.
— Heat at Cavaliers, Tuesday: It's still odd for the Heat to see Dwyane Wade as an opponent, and this is his first time facing them in Cavs colors.
STAT LINE OF THE WEEK
Joel Embiid, Philadelphia: These were video-game numbers — 46 points, 15 rebounds, seven assists and seven blocked shots in the 76ers' win at the Los Angeles Lakers on Nov. 15.
By TIM REYNOLDS
Updated: November 24, 2017 10:52 PM
(Copyright 2017 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)