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What the Celtics’ winning streak has taught us and what it hasn’t

We have that and more in Monday’s NBA newsletter.

NBA: Toronto Raptors at Boston Celtics Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

The Boston Celtics have now won 12 straight games, edging the good Toronto Raptors on Sunday after DeMar DeRozan missed a pair of go-ahead attempts. This win came without Kyrie Irving, making it all the more impressive.

Six of Boston's 12 wins have come against teams currently in the playoff picture, and a couple of more against teams expected to make the playoffs are on the list. There have been 16 winning streaks at least this long in the past five years — just about three per season.

There isn't a bad team with a winning streak like this, though last season's Miami Heat won 13 straight and still missed the playoffs. The 2013 New York Knicks won 13 straight and flamed out in the second round of the playoffs. It happens that a less-than-great team has a great winning streak.

That's probably not the case for the Celtics. However, all the winning streak does is answer one question: Is Boston still really good after the Kyrie Irving trade, the Gordon Hayward injury, and the free agent player losses? That answer is a resounding yes. Boston has a clear path to a repeat No. 1 seed in the East (though Detroit is keeping pace to date).

Does this mean Boston can beat Cleveland and make the NBA Finals? Not necessarily. The playoffs are different. Celtics fans likely remember that the 2015-16 Golden State Warriors began the season with 24 straight wins — the last of those was a double-overtime thriller in Boston that set the Ws up to lose the next night. Those same Warriors won a record 73 games, and those same Warriors gave up a 3-1 lead in the NBA Finals.

Beating LeBron requires a different rule set. We don't know if the Celtics can do that in the playoffs. But we know they are really good. That will have to be enough.

Scores Galore ...

TOR 94, BOS 95
MIA 103, DET 112
HOU 118, IND 95
DAL 99, OKC 112

... And So Much More

How Giannis Antetokounmpo dominates without a jumper; a Mike Prada/Prada's Pictures joint.

Seerat Sohi on Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins, whose future is now and maybe never.

Lonzo Ball, who you may have heard cannot shoot, became the youngest NBA player to record a triple-double over the weekend.

Rudy Gobert is out four to six weeks. The Jazz might be screwed.

Some folks out in the Twitter lanes have been claiming that some NBA awards have already been locked up. It's true that Brad Stevens is in the driver's seat for Coach of the Year, and it's difficult to see Ben Simmons lose Rookie of the Year barring injury. But Giannis is in no way the favorite for MVP at this point.

I point you in the direction of one James Harden, the No. 3 scorer and No. 1 assister for a very, very good Houston team. He had nine flipping assists in the first quarter on Sunday! He's the early favorite for MVP, in my book.

That said, Giannis is out here doing classic MJ dunk contest jams in the middle of games, so ...

Victor Oladipo in-game 360!

This isn't the first time Harden has pulled off this exact pass, but damn if it doesn't give me the vapors every single time. As if Harden needs to make the pick-and-roll more deadly!

How worried should we be about the Thunder's crunch-time woes?

Marc Stein writes that everyone is worried about the Cavaliers except for the Cavaliers. For the record, I am also not worried about the Cavaliers.

Weird LeBron moment. After playing the Mavericks, King James asserts that the Knicks "passed on a really good one" in Dennis Smith Jr. The Knicks are rather pleased with the point guard they did pick, Frank "Frankie Smokes" Ntilikina! Kristaps Porzingis is a bit flummoxed. I'm not really sure why LeBron is going after a team three spots ahead of Cleveland in the standings anyway ...

Speaking of the Knicks, did Kristaps Porzingis light up the Kings or what this weekend?

Zach Lowe's weekly 10 things includes love for an Andre Drummond in bloom.

Stephen Curry with a Veterans Day essay on having a platform and using it.

Jimmer Fredette got into an on-court altercation with Stephon Marbury in China. Is this the real life, or is this just fantasy?

The bad news is that Kyrie Irving's face got broken. The good news is that means MASKED KYRIE is back. Too bad the black mask is banned.

Kenan Thompson as LaVar Ball on SNL is always good.

Up next: We have a busy Monday schedule with nine games. NBA TV has Kings-Wizards at 7 p.m. ET. Strong League Pass options exist, including Cavaliers-Knicks (7:30, the Revenge of Ntilikina!), Nuggets-Blazers (10), and Sixers-Clippers (10:30). Full schedule here.

And finally, here's Curry kicking a ball into the basket like it's nothing.

Be excellent to each other.