WATERTOWN — Three straight victories in the final week of November is by no means a cure-all for a Celtics team that struggled badly at times over the first 20 games of the season.
But the triumphs certainly help to brighten the mood around a group of players who have had to answer a constant stream of questions over the past two months about why they have not resembled the championship contender they were purported to be coming out of the summer.
“Winning makes everything better,” Terry Rozier said after a holiday shopping experience for youth and their families from the Condon Community Center in Boston at the Watertown Mall Target late Monday afternoon. “It makes y’all jobs (in the media) easier. It makes our jobs easier.”
While the Celtics made everything look easy against the overwhelmed Cleveland Cavaliers in a 33-point victory Friday night at TD Garden, they had to work for the other two victories as they took care of two solid Western Conference opponents on the road.
Celtics coach Brad Stevens shook up the starting lineup last Monday with the additions of Marcus Morris and Marcus Smart to the first five adding up to a 17-point victory in New Orleans. Saturday night in Minnesota, it was the grand re-introduction of Gordon Hayward to the NBA as he struck for 30 points, 9 rebounds and 8 assists in 29 minutes off the bench in a 118-109 victory after he’d shown plenty of no-so-subtle hints of a breakout performance coming the night prior against Cleveland.
Boston moved from the playoff bubble in the East to a tie for fifth place with the Indiana Pacers entering Monday night. More importantly, the Celtics entered a rare, four-day break in the December schedule with a weight seemingly shifted off their shoulders.
The reward was two mostly days off ahead of two days of practice before they return to the court Thursday night at TD Garden looking to avenge an embarrassing home loss to the New York Knicks on Thanksgiving Eve.
“We’re winning,” said Tatum, who was feeling carefree enough on Monday to pull a bicycle off the rack and ride it around the store. “That takes care of everything. Hopefully, we keep winning.”
After the Celtics put seven players in double-digit scoring on Friday — including all five starters — Tatum was one of five players to net the feat on Saturday with 19 points to go with nine rebounds.
It was also the third straight solid night for Rozier after a rocky few weeks that included him shooting down reports that he wanted a trade. After a 14-point game in New Orleans, he scored 10 points with four rebounds and four assists in 20 minutes against Cleveland, and filled the stat sheet with 7 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists in Minnesota.
“It was real good,” Rozier said of the back-to-back, while donning a Santa Claus hat for the shopping spree. “We’re doing good. Christmas is coming up. We’re all in a giving mood. We all just want to give more wins.”