Toucher and Rich

BOSTON (CBS) — The Boston Celtics are back in the playoffs after a one-year absence, thanks to a 15-win improvement from last season.

Brad Stevens guided the Celtics to a 40-42 record in his second season on the bench, and will face off against LeBron James and Cleveland Cavaliers in the first round of the playoffs.

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Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge is very proud of what his team was able to accomplish this season.

“It’s a great accomplishment by the players and coach,” Ainge told 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Toucher & Rich on Thursday. “Two months ago when we were talking, I’m not sure any of us thought this would be the case. I have really, really enjoyed this team over the last few months, and think Brad had done a great job. The guys have really come together and done a great job.”

Not everyone will believe Ainge’s stance on Boston making the playoffs, with many thinking he would have preferred to miss the playoffs to improve their lottery odds, or at least fallen into the 8-seed and played Atlanta instead of Cleveland. Look no further than Ainge’s non-reaction to Jae Crowder’s game-winner over Toronto on Tuesday , which Mike Gorman called Ainge’s “poker face” on the broadcast.

Rich said it looked like someone stole his puppy, but Ainge said Thursday that’s not the case.

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“First of all, as you know, the last time we played Toronto there were three or four game-winners. That game wasn’t necessary over, they had a second to go,” Ainge said, explaining his blank expression after Crowder hit a fallaway with 0.8 seconds left. “I was excited for Jae and the group of guys, but at the same time, I try to stay as calm and as mellow as I can over the course of a game. But I’m boiling inside and mad at the officials and mistakes that we’re making, trying to keep my demeanor calm. I think Brad is having a calming influence on me.”

While not many, if anyone, is giving Boston a chance to pull off an upset against Cleveland, Ainge sees the next couple of weeks as a great learning experience for his team.

“I think it’s a great opportunity for our guys. I have all the respect in the world for LeBron; he’s the best player in the world, and with Kevin Love, Kyrie Irving, J.R. Smith — those are four dynamic offensive layers and we have our hands full,” he said. “I think it’s great for our team to go through these last two months, great to go through this preparation, and then see how we stack up against the best in the world.

“What a fun opportunity for us.”

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