INDIANAPOLIS – Before Boston’s 112-109 overtime win at Memphis on Tuesday, Isaiah Thomas was asked about signature wins and their value for the Celtics.
“We need any win we can (get),” Thomas told reporters at the time. “No matter who it is against, we’re going out trying to win every game.”
That mindset should bode well for the Celtics (16-12) tonight against an Indiana Pacers team that has struggled more than anyone anticipated this season.
Despite having arguably one of the best offseasons of any team in the NBA, the Pacers (15-15) are starting to play like the team many expected to see this season as they have emerged victorious in two of their last three games.
The season as a whole hasn’t gone as well as they would like, but the Pacers have been a different -- and much better -- team at home with wins in each of their last five games at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
So while Boston certainly has the better record, by no means will tonight’s game be a pushover for them.
But this is something the Celtics know all too well having hovered around the .500 mark just a week ago.
Since then, Boston (16-12) has reeled off three straight wins with none more impressive than Tuesday’s victory at Memphis.
It was the Celtics’ first win over a team with a winning percentage of at least .600 all season.
And it was a down-to-the-wire contest against a Grizzlies team that in those kind of games, has played extremely well this season.
Going into Tuesday’s game, Memphis was 12-1 in games where the margin was three points or less in the final minute of regulation or overtime.
In order to knock off the Grizzlies, Boston got a game for the ages from Thomas, who finished with a career-high 44 points.
And while Thomas was certainly Boston’s go-to guy in the closing minutes of Tuesday’s win, the last couple of games has allowed others to showcase their talents in the closing moments of tightly contested games as well.
The Pacers went through something similar earlier when they lost 105-99 to the Celtics earlier this year without all-star forward Paul George (ankle).
Others stepped up but none did enough for Indiana to get the win.
But players getting a shot at more minutes when a starter or superstar is out, is about more than just seizing the moment.
It’s about development and growth, two things that coaches want more than anything else when it comes to their young players and the unexpected opportunities that may come their way unexpectedly.
“At the end of the day, I need my teammates to make those plays,” Thomas said. “We’ll be a more dangerous team when more guys can make plays down the stretch and teams can’t just focus on me.”