BOSTON – As crazy as it may sound, the Boston Celtics needed a game like Wednesday’s 104-97 victory over New Orleans.
Regardless of the opponent, Celtics’ victories have come about usually because they played well.
That was not the case on Wednesday.
It was a game that featured Boston at its worst at times, the kind of game that they would have easily lost earlier this season.
But this team is starting to show the kind of growth to where even on bad nights against bad teams, they’re starting to figure out ways to still emerge victorious.
It began with their lackluster 107-100 win over the woeful Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday, and Boston’s winning ugly ways continued on Wednesday with a hard-earned victory over the Pelicans.
It was Boston’s first game back from their five-game West coast trip, and they certainly looked and played like a team trying to re-adjust to the time zone change.
“I thought we looked a little road-weary,” acknowledged head coach Brad Stevens. “But on those nights you have to find a way.
He added, “This was a game that we had to find a way, and we found a way. We will improve. We’ll get better off of the things we didn’t do well from watching film and again, get off our feet before Friday night (against the Milwaukee Bucks).”
While both teams are far apart record-wise, the Celtics knew their first game back home after the long road trip was going to be challenging on several fronts.
“I don’t feel like we played the right way the entire game,” said Celtics guard Avery Bradley. “But I’m happy we were able to finish the game out and get the win.”
With 2:39 to play, the score was tied at 93 following a 17-footer by New Orleans’ Luke Babbitt.
Twenty seconds later, Bradley drained a 15-foot baseline jumper to put Boston back on top.
Bradley then forced a steal which ended with a lay-up by Jae Crowder.
The Celtics’ late game run continued when Isaiah Thomas made a pair of free throws with 1:23 to play which put Boston ahead 99-93 and would later prove to be the game-winning points.
Players agree that the re-adjustment from having been out West for nearly two weeks, was a factor in some of the struggles they had against the Pelicans whose roster has been hit particularly hard by season-ending injuries to key players.
But those injuries have created opportunities for several players to see action in the NBA who otherwise would be in the Development League or not playing at all.
And that has essentially created an audition-like atmosphere to where New Orleans how has a team full of hungry players with something to prove.
That lends itself to guys playing their best basketball, which makes for matchups that are much closer than most would expect going in.
“Those guys played very hard,” Crowder said of the Pelicans. “They didn’t lay down at all, we got up ten and the fought back and you know, that’s what you expect from a team, when you are playing for nothing, playing for pride and playing for the organization, but props to them.”
Celtics guard Marcus Smart sees Wednesday’s game as a precursor for the types of games that are on the horizon for Boston.
“From here on out, things aren’t going to be easy,” Smart said. “No games are easy in the NBA. Guys are here for a reason. Everybody is competitive, they want to win. So they’re going to try and do everything they can to stop us from winning. To get a win like that against this team and we didn’t play too well together as a team, it’s great for us.”