BOSTON (CBS) — The Boston Celtics are still hanging on to the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference despite a disheartening loss to the Miami Heat on Wednesday night.
With 11 games to go, the Celtics and Pacers are tied for the final playoff spot in the East, with Boston holding the head-to-head tiebreaker. The two teams will meet for the final time on April 1 in Boston.READ MORE: Beverly Man Dies While Hiking On New Hampshire Trail
Not many pictured the Celtics as a postseason team at the beginning of the year, but now they control their playoff destiny over the final three weeks of the regular season. So will the campaign be a failure if the Celtics miss the playoffs? Team president Danny Ainge doesn’t think so.
“No, I’m not really hanging on that. I love the fact that our team is getting a chance to play in meaningful games every night,” Ainge told 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Toucher & Rich on Thursday. “It’s a great opportunity for me and Brad [Stevens] to evaluate what were made of, who can step up and play meaningful minutes. All our young guys can learn through this. You don’t judge them from one game to the next, but see how our guys bounce back from difficult losses.
“So far, our guys have passed the test. I’m excited about the next  games. We control our destiny and have a tough schedule ahead of us still. I’m excited about it.”
The Celtics have a relatively young and inexperienced team when it comes to playing in such important games. So far, Ainge has been pleased with how they’ve handled that pressure, but wants to see them take it to the next level.
“I think what our guys have not experienced, some of our young players, is being the favorites and being expected to win games,” said Ainge. “It’s easier to always be the underdog and show up periodically and have a big win, but being the favorites is a different feel. I’m confident all our players can learn to be that, but our team right now isn’t good enough to be the favorite every night. We should be able to close out this schedule, I think, and win enough games to get to the playoffs, or make sure we’re still in contention the last night of the season.”READ MORE: Candlelight Vigil Scheduled In Memory Of 5-Year-Old Elijah Lewis
Ainge said that while Brad Stevens has done an incredible job on the bench, he wouldn’t vote for him as Coach of the Year.
“In reality, I wouldn’t vote for him for Coach of the Year because there have been some teams with great winning, and I think that award should go to a coach with more wins,” said Ainge. “Having said that I give Brad an A+ for the job he has done; he’s done a magnificent job.
“Brad has been fantastic and I wouldn’t trade him for any coach in the league, I love the guy.”
As for Marcus Smart’s recent uppercut to Matt Bonner’s nether region, Ainge said that play was over the line.
“I did not speak with Marcus yet, but I will speak with him,” said Ainge, noting that Stevens has already had a chat with the rookie. “We all know Marcus is a tough kid and he’s an instigator. We love that about him. He’s a very physical player but that was over the line. He knows it, he accepted the fine and punishment and hopefully he learns from that.”MORE NEWS: Cost Of Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream Increasing 4.1%