Zolak and Bertrand

BOSTON (CBS) — The Boston Celtics dropped a disappointing game to the Miami Heat on Wednesday night, squandering a golden opportunity to improve their standing in the Eastern Conference playoffs.

The Celtics enter their Friday night tilt against the Knicks in New York as the eight seed in the East, half a game ahead of the Indiana Pacers. Wednesday night was a chance to strengthen that hold on the final playoff spot, and potentially reach the seventh seed, but it was one the Celtics let slip away.

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Brad Stevens wasn’t happy with his team following the loss, but says they’ve moved on. Their focus quickly shifted to bouncing back in New York.

“I think the biggest thing in this league is how you respond to things. You’re going to have quarters, nights where you don’t play well,” Stevens told 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Zolak & Bertrand on his weekly appearance on Friday. “As I went back and watched [the game tape], we just really had lapses. It wasn’t like we didn’t play well for most of the first quarter — we did. We played well for eight minutes and played poor for the last four. In the second quarter we were poor, the start of the third quarter I didn’t think we were great, and then in the fourth quarter we really fought.

“At the end of the day, you’ll have moments like that and it’s all about the response. It’s all about focusing on what we need to do to play better and get the most out of everybody,” he said. “The No. 1 thing we’re focused on right now is today, and what we need to do tonight.”

The Celtics got Isaiah Thomas back on Wednesday, but the guard was far from his normal self as he recovers from a bad tailbone bruise. Thomas scored just four points, shooting 2-for-7 from the floor.

“The biggest thing that your recognize, first and foremost, is our highest ceiling as a team is with Isaiah Thomas and with Isaiah Thomas playing well. Part of coming back is getting the kinks out, and you hope to be able to do that in practice. Unfortunately we haven’t been able to practice. His first time in a five-on-five setting was in the game, and he was the first to say he didn’t feel great and the first to say he was tentative coming out of the gate.

“I do not think that will continue though, because he said he felt good after the game and after practice [on Thursday],” said Stevens. “Hopefully he’ll be better tonight.”

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Celtics president Danny Ainge was very complimentary about Stevens on his Thursday appearance on Toucher & Rich, giving him an A+ for the season. Stevens said that just goes to show the great relationship he and Ainge have with each other.

“[I’d give him] the same grade,” said Stevens. “As far as working with him and being around him, and as far as him supporting me, those guys have really worked hard with all of the different roster moves made over the last 18 months. When he decided they were going to make that [Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce] trade with Brooklyn, before I even came on board, that signaled there was a ton of work ahead. That work continues, but there have been very few off-moments for the guys in the front office, specifically Danny. I’ve never felt anything other than 100 percent support.”

Given Ainge’s moves from this season, Stevens is excited about what moves could be coming in the future.

“The good news is you make those moves because we have the flexibility to add really good pieces to our puzzle,” he said. “The opportunity to have increased flexibility, that with a lot of the ways that our guys are playing and the moments they’re having, should be a good cause for optimism. The thing I’m most pleased about is our resiliency. It’s hard to win a game in this league, and you play night after night and you really don’t come up for air. These guys have been terrific about getting back to work regardless of circumstance.

“That’s a great thing moving forward, and with that increased flexibility, hopefully we continue to add some really talented guys who approach work that way.”

Earlier Friday, Zolak and Betrand discussed whether or not the Kentucky Wildcats could beat the Philadelphia 76ers. Before Beetle could even ask Stevens if a college team could ever beat a pro team, the C’s coach gave an emphatic, “No.”

“But I think, obviously, there are a lot of great college teams and many kids on many teams will grow up to be great players,” he said. “But no; It’s a totally different game.”

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