Then the season started. The Celtics posted just one straight-up victory while going winless against the spread during last week's junket, which they capped with Sunday's 100-94 loss in Portland as 2-point underdogs.
Kyrie Irving, though, had other ideas.
"Man, he made some shots tonight where you're just like, 'Wow, '" forward Gordon Hayward said. "I think that guys want to take advantage of their talent". This season, both of them are continuing to be vital vogs for their respective teams. "So most teams have, like, one through eight, one through seven, maybe even one through, you know, nine or ten". The great teams bring it the next night. He was the first player do it in the National Basketball Association this year, and the first Celtics player since Antoine Walker in 2001.
From the top of the lineup to the bottom, it seems like anyone can step up and make a contribution to this team on any given night.
The NBA season is back so let's wager on these games! It's fantastic, frankly, that Irving has been able to be this dominant for such a long stretch.
But then, it appeared a light finally went off for the Celtics, especially Irving. It opened things up on the perimeter as the quarter progressed.
This is exactly what the Celtics need. "Kyrie's ability to get in there is so unique". We just had the opportunity, and we capitalized on it.
Mitchell believed last season that he should have been the NBA's Rookie of the Year and wore plenty of clothes to prove that point.
"Those guys deserved to play at that moment", Irving said. "It's a mindset that we just have to ingrain in all of us".
With the loss, the Jazz fell to 7-8 on the season.
More importantly, Tatum stopped settling for jumpers and attacked the rim.
"Not too often during the regular season we get to have games like this", Irving said. "I don't think that was anybody's mindset when (Hayward) left". "I had to do my part".
Leonard had a chance to win it at the end of regulation, but his long jumper went off the rim.
For someone still clearly working his way back into form, all of it was important.
"Great is great for a reason", Stevens said.
"I'm happy he left me in", Hayward said. "I've tried my best to stay as humble as possible, because it can be taken away from you in a matter of seconds". The Raptors have the pieces intact to make a serious run, and will they finally overcome their playoff wise with LeBron James out of the conference finally? Kyle Lowry was awful, going 3-for-12 and committing 4 turnovers while finishing with 14 points and 7 assists.
The Celtics were coming off a 123-116 overtime win against Toronto. Instead, the Raptors are 12-4 and will take a three-game losing streak with them to Chicago on Saturday night.
"I expect to be flawless", Mitchell said.
The Celtics are a tough team on the boards ranking No. 11 at 46.5 rebounds per game. When he gets into that mode, the whole arena knew where we were going, and so did the Raptors.
"It's just a learning process". He also joined the 10,000 point club in the process.
"Getting beaten down on [missing] shots or not being in the right spots".
This time, things went in Boston's favor because of it.