BOSTON (CBS) – You can’t lose them all.
That’s not the kind of phrase some Celtics fans want to hear this time of year, when the Celtics are “battling” for crucial positioning in the NBA Lottery race. With Orlando, Utah, and the LA Lakers grouped together tightly with Boston in the race for the 3-6 spots in the lottery, any win down the stretch can swing the draft odds fairly drastically for the C’s.
The Magic, Jazz, and Lakers stuck to the losing script last night, dropping their games by double digits against playoff teams.
The Celtics however, who had lost nine straight games and 14 of their last 15 overall prior to last night, were not ready to roll over against the Charlotte Bobcats. Despite playing without the services of Rajon Rondo (bruised left shin) and blowing another big fourth quarter lead (13 points), the Celtics refused to give in Friday night.
An 8-0 run late in the fourth quarter proved to be enough for the hosts to fight past the playoff-bound Bobcats and give the Celtics a rare reason to smile during a dreadful second half of the season. It was Boston’s first win since March 19th against Miami.
After the game, head coach Brad Stevens had a strong message for those fans that may have wanted the Celtics to drop their 10th-straight game overall last night.
“I have a job,” Stevens said. “My job is to get this team to play as hard and as well together as they possibly can. And all of us are disappointed in our overall record, and all of us are certainly aware of [tank] talk, but that’s not our task. Our task is to play as hard, coach as hard, and do right by the game. And I think that that’s what those guys in the locker room have pretty consistently done. We’ve had a couple of clunkers, but we’ve had a lot of games like this and a lot of them that didn’t go our way, unfortunately.”
Stevens is right about the Celtics overall effort. While the team’s record this season has been brutal (12-41 in their last 53 games), the energy has been consistent most nights. The numbers back up that assessment: the team has been within five points or less in the fourth quarter during more than half of their games. The late-game execution has been lacking, but any time you are playing hard, you are bound to grind out some wins. That’s exactly what happened against Charlotte.
For Boston’s long-term prospects, it’s important that Stevens’ effort message is still getting through to his players, even at this stage of the season when there is little to play for. While there is bound to be some serious turnover on next year’s roster, the fact that Stevens still has this roster giving its all bodes well for when he will have more talent on the roster in future seasons.
“The way we played last game we wanted to come out and make an improvement.” Avery Bradley said Friday night. “I feel like we did on the defensive end. We want to keep building, Even though there’s only a few games left, we can still make a statement and show teams that we are still fighting no matter what, even if we’re not going to the playoffs. We still have pride to go out there and play for ourselves and our fans.”
Kris Humphries has played for a number of losing teams throughout his career, but he still believes the wins matter at this stage of the year.
“I think it’s important [to still win games],” said Humphries last night. “You put a lot into it. I think it’s really frustrating to lose at the end of games. We dodged a couple bullets at the end today; sometimes you got to get lucky. I think, over time, we’ll figure out how to play better at the end of games.”
With just three games remaining, there’s no guarantee of any more wins this year, but one thing remains clear: Boston’s effort will be there until the bitter end.
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