BOSTON (CBS) — The Boston Celtics have five games remaining in the regular season, and most fans of the team would like to see them lose them all.
The Celtics are just 23-54 this season, the fourth-worst record in the league, and sit half-a-game below the Utah Jazz in the “Tank Rank.” Fans are thinking of Ping-Pong balls in the May 20 NBA Draft Lottery, hoping the Celtics can land a top pick in June’s draft.
But even with the end of the season right around the corner, the guys who take the court aren’t thinking about the offseason. They’re thinking of playing a little spoiler, mainly against the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday.
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Atlanta is clinging to the eighth-seed in the Eastern Conference, the only playoff spot up for grabs in the East, and the Celtics would love to have a hand in the Hawks also watching the playoffs from home this summer.
“We want to be that team [to spoil it for Atlanta],” point guard Rajon Rondo said at practice on Tuesday. “Hopefully we can mess up Atlanta’s record and knock those guys out of the playoffs.”
“It’s beautiful to know that you have a chance to spoil someone’s playoff contention,” said forward Jared Sullinger. “We have to go into the game and play hard and play smart. We have to come into the game mentally ready to play a hard 48 minutes.”
The Hawks didn’t help their own chances on Monday, losing to the Detroit Pistons 102-95, their eighth loss in their last 10 games.
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And while playing spoiler is not something the team has really talked about, Sullinger said they are aware of how important Wednesday night is for Atlanta.
“A lot of these guys know the seeding in the Eastern Conference, and that we have a chance to mess that up,” he said.
After Wednesday, the Celtics will play two playoff teams before the season comes to a close: Charlotte and Washington. The Bobcats are a game ahead of the Wizards for the sixth-seed in the East, and Boston would like to have a say in where both teams finish.
But these final five games are not just for messing up someone’s summer. Despite the 54 losses the Celtics have been competitive throughout the season, a few of their most recent “efforts” aside. Head coach Brad Stevens doesn’t see much to gain out of playing spoiler, but there is still a lot to play for when it comes to his Celtics.
“It’s kinda like a broken record,” he said Tuesday. “I just want to execute better, I want to execute longer, I want to do tougher things more often, and do it for 48 minutes. I think, at times, we’ve done close to that, but very rarely for 48 minutes. You’d like to see the details play themselves out as far as doing everything little thing right on every possession.”
“I’d like to see us feel better and build some momentum,” said the first-year head coach.
“I want to finish the season off strong,” said Sullinger, who is averaging 13.2 points and 8.1 rebounds in his second NBA season. “There has never been a quitter inside me, so I want to finish the season strong.”
A strong finish might not be what fans want out of this team, but the Celtics are at least ready to fight over the final week of the regular season. And if they can mess up Atlanta’s playoff hopes in the process, they’ll take it.
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