Celtics rediscover identity just in time for playoffs

Celtics rediscover identity just in time for playoffs

BOSTON – The past couple of months have shown just how magnificent – and maddening – this Boston Celtics can be.

From the elation of handing the Golden State Warriors their only loss at home this season, to painful, punch-to-the-gut losses at Atlanta and against Charlotte earlier this month.

But on Wednesday, for a half at least we saw the promise and immense potential that the Boston Celtics have when they are playing Celtics basketball at both ends of the floor as they rallied from 26-points down to defeat Miami 98-88.

The Celtics victory created a four-way tie for playoff spots No. 3-6. After tie-breaking rules were applied, Boston wound up as the No. 5 seed and will travel to Atlanta later this week to face the fourth-seeded Hawks.

Boston didn’t win as much as they would have liked in the final days of the regular season, but the second half against Miami may have been their best stretch of play over two quarters, all season.

And that play has to become this team’s identity if they are to make a deep playoff run despite beginning their postseason against an Atlanta team that has beaten them three out of four times this season.

But as Celtics head coach Brad Stevens mentioned earlier this week, everything resets now.

For a Celtics team that lost two of its last three games – all at home – that’s a good thing.

There were a number of factors that played into what became the greatest comeback in the NBA this season.

But it seemed everything changed at halftime for Boston when they stopped worrying about the scoreboard and just focused on playing better basketball.

“We just needed to find ourselves,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. “That was the biggest thing. In the third quarter I stopped really caring about what the score was; it was just like, ‘Yes, Thank you. Now we have a chance to move forward.’”

And the Celtics will look to do that against the Hawks, a team that in many ways resembles themselves only with more experience and proven, battle-tested talent.

While the formula for success may change from one opponent to another, the ingredients remain the same.

Tough, gritty, unselfish play has to be at the heart of what Boston does in its first-round series against Atlanta.

On Wednesday, the first half was an example of what can happen against a quality team when they veer away from that.

They get smoked, badly.

But when the Celtics are on one string and players are playing to their strengths  … you get performances like the one we saw in the second half which has to be this team’s identity going forward.

“If you are a defender on this team you have to go out there and play hard on the defensive end,” said Boston’s Avery Bradley. “And if you are a rebounder, go and rebound. We all have to play hard in order to be successful.”

And while Boston would have certainly liked to have strung together a couple more wins in the final week of the season, they do go into the playoffs with the kind of performance that they can build off of, the kind that speaks to the identity of a team with legitimate, achievable goals of making a run – a deep run – in the postseason.

NBCSB Breakfast podcast: Maybe next year will be the Celtics' year

NBC Sports Boston Illustration

NBCSB Breakfast podcast: Maybe next year will be the Celtics' year

1:31 - With the results of Kyrie Irving’s second opinion on he knee looming, the Celtic’s season is certainly up in the air. A. Sherrod Blakely, Chris Mannix, Kyle Draper and Gary Tanguay debate how and if Kyrie should be used if he returns.

6:02 - Back in October Michael Felger prematurely said the Bruins season was over. The B’s marketing team featured Felger in an ad for playoff tickets now that the Bruins have clinched the playoffs. Felger, Trenni and Gary react to the commercial and discuss the Bruins playoff chances.

11:47 - The Patriots are making moves! on Tursday the Pats made deals with LaAdrian Waddle, Marquis Flowers and Patrick Chung. Phil Perry, Michael Holley, Troy Brown and Tom Curran discuss how despite these moves, the Patriots should still be in search of a left tackle.

Greg Monroe looking forward to his 2nd taste of playoffs

File Photo

Greg Monroe looking forward to his 2nd taste of playoffs

BOSTON – We live in a world filled with success stories that came about by accident. 

The invention of the microwave oven.

Post-It notes.

The creation of potato chips.

The Boston Celtics’ game-winning play against Oklahoma City earlier this week qualfies; a play in which there were multiple miscues made by the Celtics prior to Marcus Morris’ game-winning shot. 


All these Celtics injuries have made Brad Stevens a mad scientist of sorts with some unusual lineups that may be on display tonight against the guard-centric Portland Trail Blazers. 

In Boston’s 100-99 win over the Thunder on Tuesday, we saw Stevens utilize a lineup with Al Horford and Greg Monroe, in four different stints.

Monroe, who had 17 points off the bench - the most he has scored as a Celtic -  enjoyed playing with Horford.

“Al’s so smart. He’s seen it all in this league,” Monroe told NBC Sports Boston. “He’s an all-star. Very cerebral player, unselfish. So it’s easy playing with him. He can space, drive, make plays. I feel like I can make plays, driving. It’s fun playing with him. I look forward to getting out there with him more.”

Horford had similar praise for playing with Monroe.

“Coach (Brad Stevens) made a great move bringing Greg back in, in the fourth, playing us together,” Horford said. “He made some great plays, passing the ball and just … timely plays. It’s one of those things, the more we play with each other the more comfortable we’ll get. I thought it was very positive.”

Monroe’s role has become significantly more important with the season-ending injury (torn meniscus, left knee) to Daniel Theis. And his ability to play well with various lineups will only improve Boston’s chances of weathering this latest storm of injuries which comes on the eve of the playoffs. 

And while there’s a certain amount of pleasure all players take in being on a playoff-bound team, Monroe understands better than most NBA veterans just how special it is to be headed towards the postseason.

In his eighth season, this will only be Monroe’s second time participating in the playoffs. 

The first time? 

That was last year, with the Milwaukee Bucks. 

“This is what everybody plays for, I hope,” Monroe said. “This is what I play for, to get into the postseason, make a run. It’s the best situation. I’ve been through a lot in my career, this year. I’m grateful. I don’t take anything for granted. I’m going to do whatever I can to help the team.”

And he has done that lately.

Monroe comes into tonight’s game having scored in double figures each of the last four games, a season high for the 6-foot-11 center. 

Having spent most of his NBA career watching instead of participating in the playoffs, Monroe is out to prove that he can in fact be a significant contributor to a team that’s postseason-bound.

“For sure. You have to have a little chip, a little fire, at least in my eyes,” Monroe said. “I’ve never doubted myself. It’s about being between those lines and being the best player I can be. That’s what I’m focused on.”