BOSTON – Inside the Boston Celtics’ practice facility, you’ll see nothing but championship banners hanging from the walls, a reminder of how success with this franchise is a little different – OK, very different – than other franchise in the NBA.
So the idea of Boston winning the Atlantic Division title with Monday’s 114-105 win over Brooklyn went over like a deflated balloon at a 10-year-old’s birthday party.
“It’s not something that we necessarily set as a concrete goal,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens.
The Celtics (52-29) will finish at least one game ahead of Toronto (50-31), the Atlantic division champion from last season.
“Toronto is a heck of a team and to even be at a level where throughout an 82-game season, that we are at the top of that division I guess it means something,” Stevens said.
It means something to Avery Bradley, the longest-tenured Celtic.
“It shows that we’re starting to play the right way,” said Bradley, in his seventh season – all with the Celtics. “This is going to help us get closer to our goals and we just need to finish the season out strong and prepare for the playoffs.”
And it is in the playoff where the Celtics’ true goal this season – to make a deep playoff run – will emerge.
“In Boston you only talk about one goal, right?” Stevens said. “So everything else is leading up to that.”
Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Monday night’s game between Boston and Brooklyn.
Just another day in the life of the fourth quarter assassin. He led all scorers with 27 points on 10-for-21 shooting with four rebounds and three assists.
His perimeter shooting and ability to get to the free throw line proved crucial in Brooklyn’s third quarter rally. He finished with 26 points on just 4-for-9 shooting from the field, and 16-for-17 shooting from the free throw line. Lin also led all players with 12 rebounds.
While Lin was cashing in from the free throw line, Lopez was getting baskets around the rim as he tallied 25 points on 10-for-21 shooting to go with seven rebounds.
He is looking like his pre-injury self, making sharp cuts and timely baskets while delivering at both ends of the floor. He had 17 points on 7-for-10 shooting with five rebounds.
He had a major mismatch with Rondae Hollis-Jefferson defending him, and Horford frequently made the Nets pay for putting a smaller defender on him. Horford had 19 points to go with eight rebounds, four assists and a blocked shot.
Celtics’ third quarter slump
Boston built up a considerable lead through the first two-plus quarters, and it was a good thing, too. After an Isaiah Thomas jumper put Boston ahead 69-42 in the third quarter, the Nets responded with a 31-14 run that made a Celtics cake walk into a relatively competitive game down the stretch. Boston can’t afford to have too many, if any, games like that in the playoffs.