SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The Celtics’ chemistry had played a large role in their 10-game winning streak, though interruptions in their ball movement and overall flow were part of the issue in Sunday’s 100-99 loss to the Kings.
Still, the C’s sit atop the Eastern Conference with a 10-2 record, which is no small feat for a team that lost three starters from last year’s club and rebuilt on the fly.
Kings coach Luke Walton is impressed with how quickly things have gelled.
“It’s always a tricky one,” he said. “I think you see a lot of teams, including us, struggling a little bit at the beginning. Boston’s done a nice job of figuring that out. And some of their core has been there, but, yeah, they added some major new pieces and they seem like they’ve all adjusted and accepted what roles they have.
“And they did a nice job of, even though they lost Kyrie (Irving) and Al (Horford), Kemba (Walker‘s) a… they brought in a stud to kind of help replace that. So give them a lot of credit, front office and coaching staff over there.”
Said Brad Stevens, “I just think most of the years I’ve been here we’ve had major roster turnover going into the year. There’s been a few exceptions. So you’re just kind of used to that. And then I think there are all kinds of things that go into it, but this group has meshed well from Day 1.
“It’s been well documented the time four of these guys spent playing USA Basketball (Walker, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart, Jayson Tatum), but the rest of those guys, other than (Daniel) Theis and (Vincent) Poirier who were playing in the Worlds too, for the most part were in Boston together. And I think that that means a lot, too. They spent a lot of time together in the offseason, spent a lot of time getting ready in the preseason. And it’s been a good group thus far. But there’s a long way to go and a lot of challenges ahead. So we’ll see.”
Smart was a bit hobbled after Sunday’s game, the result of a collision Friday against the Warriors.
“Yeah, my hip is a little banged up from the last game,” he said after a 2-for-16 shooting effort. “But I was out there, so I’ve got to be able to perform. If not, I need to go sit my butt back down.”
Two of the fingers on his right hand were wrapped, as well.
“One play when I came in to deflect the ball, I sprained both of the fingers I dislocated a couple years ago,” he said. “But it’s part of the game. You guys know how I play and who I am, so I’m going to come back. It’s just a minor setback. I’ll be all right.”
Working through it
Rob Williams has been dealing with the effects of a twisted right ankle, but he was able to play Sunday.
“They wouldn’t have approved him to play if they were overly concerned. So this is just something that it’s a little sore but nothing major,” said Stevens.
Williams played 6:37, all in the first quarter. He had three rebounds and made one of two free throws.
“I was able to play,” he said afterward. “It was just a game plan decision.”
Of the lingering soreness, Williams said, “It’s annoying feeling like I’m not helping my team. We’ve just got to pull together and get through these injuries, get through this adversity and get back to normal.”
Rookie Romeo Langford appears to be all right after going out with an ankle problem in his last game for G-League Maine.
“I was just told it was a mild sprain,” Stevens said. “I don’t know what his situation with regard to timeline, but I’m guessing that we’ll probably have him go back to Boston. We’re actually sending a trainer back in the middle of the week, so he’ll probably go back there.”
Because of their start, the Celtics believe they’ve been getting a better shot from their opponents. The Kings certainly celebrated their Sunday win as if it was a big deal.
“Yeah, I mean, we have been playing really well,” said Walker. “We’ve obviously been winning a lot and, yeah, I do think because we’ve been doing so well people are going to definitely want to play us more. We’re going to get everybody’s best. It’s just what it is, so we just have to be prepared for that, be prepared to match everyone’s energy every single night.” …
It’s a bit ironic that the Kings scored the game’s last points from the free throw line. They were called for 24 fouls, 10 more than the Celtics, who went 21 of 24 from the line while Sacramento was 10 for 12.