Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports

Celtics 95, Raptors 94: Another example why Brad Stevens is the real MVP

Josue Pavon
November 12, 2017 - 9:07 pm

Very few NBA coaches can make do without their best player, never mind two of their best. 

But that's exactly what Brad Stevens is doing. If there's one thing we learned throughout the Celtics' 95-94 win over the Raptors, it's the fact that Stevens is the biggest reason why his team is this successful -- riding high off a 12-game winning streak. As impressive as Friday's win over the Hornets was -- a game the Celtics won without Kyrie Irving and Al Horford -- Sunday's win was just as powerful. (For a complete recap, click here.)

Knocking off DeMar DeRozan, Kyle Lowry and the Raptors -- one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference -- proved just how deep the Celtics are. Lack of depth was a big concern heading after losing Gordon Hayward, it meant guys like Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum were going to have to step in and produce at a high level. 

And that's exactly what they've done.

But it's Stevens' system that's propelled the youngsters'  development. The 'defense will lead to offense' approach has not only elevated the Celtics into being the top defensive team in the league, but has led to offensive production from the starters to the second unit, too. 

Five players scored in double-figures, led by Al Horford (21 points). Marcus Smart was also efficient in adding to the offense, finishing with 14 points and nine assists. Brown got off to a quick start, scoring back-to-back jumpers in the first quarter and then made a steal that turned into an assist to Tatum for a loud finish. 

Brown and Tatum combined for 31 points on 14-of-30 shots while Brown made key stops down the stretch that resulted in a hard-fought win. After Tatum grabbed a critical rebound off a DeRozan miss, he was whistled for an offensive foul that gave the Raptors another chance to win the game. The Raptors turned to DeRozan yet again, but it was Brown's one-on-one defense that contested the potential game-winning jump shot, with the ball bouncing off the rim seconds before the game clock expired.

Stevens has preached how the Celtics' defense will propel his team's offense and it's been the difference in tight games like we saw on Sunday. 

The C's got great efforts from guys like Brown, Tatum and Terry Rozier (16 points, 6 rebounds), while guys like Horford, Aron Baynes and Daniel Theis continued to shine on the defensive side of things. 

"These guys are all professional basketball players, they're all really prideful," Stevens said. "They all believe in themselves and rightfully so. The key is to just kind of do what you do best. We're not gonna make up for Kyrie Irving by somebody trying to be Kyrie Irving. We just have to all chip in and count for him as a team."

No word if Irving will be in action against the Nets in Brooklyn on Tuesday. If he isn't, the Celtics will have to do without him for the third straight game, looking to stretch their winning streak to 13 games before facing the champion Warriors at TD Garden on Thursday.

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