BOSTON (CBS) — The finish line is in view, and the Celtics currently sit atop everyone else in the Eastern Conference.
After the Celtics took care of the Brooklyn Nets, 114-105, on Monday night, they flipped on the TV in the locker room and did a little scoreboard watching. They saw the Cavaliers fall to the Heat in overtime, which combined with their victory, put the Celtics back on top as the No. 1 seed in the conference.
They know there is still work to be done. A lot of work. But for now, they’re eager to earn that top seed for their own.
“The No. 1 seed, that means a lot to me, personally,” Isaiah Thomas said after the victory. “Hopefully we can get that.”
All Boston needs to do to claim that top seed is win their regular season finale Wednesday night against the Milwaukee Bucks. They can also secure it with a loss and a Cleveland loss in Toronto, but they’d much rather take care of business themselves.
“We want to control what we can control, really. At the end of the day, that’s all we can worry about,” said Thomas. “We have to be locked in. We have to continue to play the right way and get some momentum going into the playoffs.”
While the success of the season will ultimately come down to how they do in the playoffs, Thomas said finishing with the best record in the Eastern Conference is nothing to scoff at.
“It says a lot about this team. We’ve been through ups and downs, been through a lot of injuries and haven’t been healthy for the most part. But we just kept going; it says a lot about who we are,” he said. “No matter what the situation we just kept going and tried to continue to get better every day. That’s what we did, and we put ourselves in a good position at the end of the season.”
With the offseason addition of Al Horford, there was chatter of 50-plus wins and a deep playoff run for Boston. But winning the East was never really discussed. For a team that loves to feed off the underdog mentality, doing something pundits said they couldn’t further adds to their motivation.
“It’s a good feeling,” Horford said Monday. “Starting the year, we struggled. We started to get it going as the season went on, and we just keep getting better as a group. I’m just proud of the guys and what we’ve been able to accomplish this regular season, because sometimes it’s easier said than done. You have to go out and play the games, and we’ve gotten better throughout the year.”
While the Celtics are flying high at the moment thinking about that top seed in the conference, they have a coach that can quickly bring them back down to earth.
“Whatever seed we get, we get, and that’s the result of an 82-game schedule, not one or two games, and it is what it is,” Brad Stevens said Monday night. “We’ve had a pretty consistent year with regards to performance, but we’ve also had games where we haven’t played as well. You just hope you’re playing as well as you can. I’m literally not talking about it with the team at all, nor am I losing one second of sleep over it.”