The Celtics bandwagon is filling up fast now that a team many had written off has turned into a surprise juggernaut with a 16-game winning streak and the best record in the league.
With each victory, often after the team came back from a double-digit deficit, the green fever seems to be building, sweeping up even casual observers like Ellen Berlin, a media relations specialist who finds herself rushing home after dinner to catch the games and staying up past her bedtime to watch the end of the fourth quarter.
“The enthusiasm and the excitement from the games becomes contagious,” said Berlin, who works at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Typically, she said, she’s “not really a big professional basketball fan.”
“Now, it’s like every night, ‘Oh, my gosh. Can they keep it up?’ ” Berlin said. “This is different. And me staying up till after 11 o’clock to watch the end of a game is really different.”
The team’s resurgence has been all the more improbable for fans who watched Gordon Hayward suffer a gruesome ankle break less than six minutes into the first game of the year. Suddenly, the season seemed over for a team that was supposed to be an instant contender for another championship.
Garnet Collins, a Celtics diehard from Nashua, said, like many fans, she was devastated by the loss of the newly acquired all-star, who was supposed to reunite with his former Butler University coach, Brad Stevens, and form part of the team’s new core, along with Kyrie Irving.
“My biggest fear was when we saw Hayward go down in that game,” she said. “It scared me because there was no one to back up Kyrie Irving because the big guy was now lost. Then they lost the next two games.”
But game by game, the team seemed to bounce back, and fans who had given up hope started coming back too.
Berlin said she got hooked when the winning streak cracked double digits.
“And as the win streak went on, it became more fun to watch,” she said. “You can feel that they play with passion and they’re likable and fun.”
When the Celtics defeated the defending champion Golden State Warriors for their 14th straight win last week, it marked a turning point in the region’s growing affection for the team.
“It was, like, ‘Wow. OK, maybe we can have a good season,’ ” Collins said.
Monday’s overtime victory over the Dallas Mavericks extended the streak to 16 games. That is the fourth-longest in the Celtics’ storied history.
‘Now, it’s like every night, “Oh, my gosh. Can they keep it up?” ’
Ratings have soared. NBC Sports Boston reported this month that viewership was up 139 percent over the first 10 games of the season, compared to the same span last season. The network’s live stream of Celtics broadcasts is drawing an unprecedented audience.
Jim Holzman, chief executive of Ace Ticket, said prices have shot up 20 to 50 percent over the last five weeks.
Now, some fans are even floating the idea of Banner 18.
“I think it’s definitely a building-toward-a-championship year,” said Charles Spofford, a fan from Concord. “I hope I don’t jinx it.”
The Celtics’ success has been validating for fans like Matthew Holdgate, a sophomore at Nantucket High School, who said he never lost faith, even when Hayward was injured.
“I knew as soon as the year started that this was going to be a special season,” he said. The streak, he said, has been “crazy.”
“It’s like every single game, another win,” he said. “This is amazing.”
Holdgate’s father, Fred, said he’s been watching games for the first time since the Celtics’ glory days in the 1980s. “Now I’m back into it,” he said.
Of course, some fickle fans have not warmed up to the new roster of young players, no matter how talented.
Jim Debellis said he usually attends most home games but has gone to only one this year because he is still upset about Danny Ainge’s decision to trade Isaiah Thomas and Avery Bradley , two fan favorites .
“It takes time,” he said. “When I get aggravated . . . I don’t want to go for a while. I have to put them on punishment and won’t come.”
The streak hasn’t escaped his attention, he said, but hasn’t won him over just yet.
“It’s getting my juices flowing, but it’s still early in the season,” he said. “I still think they got a long way to go.”
Of course, fans know the streak has to end. Maybe it will be in Miami Wednesday night, when the Celtics take on the Heat. When it happens, Berlin said, she’ll be ready.
“I’m prepared for that, but I have the sense they will be able to regroup and win again,” she said. “This is going to be a team to watch all year.”Michael Levenson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @mlevenson.