BOSTON – There’s a delicate balance that the Celtics have been walking all season, one in which they are focused on the moment while keeping an eye towards the future.
As important as it is for the Celtics to close out their pre-All-Star break schedule with a win, being aware of what’s around the corner is also important.
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“I’ve gone to the All-Star break, done some of the right things. I’ve gone to All-Star break, done some of the wrong things,” said Kyrie Irving. “Just because...it’s a learning experience as a professional. The biggest key is how focused are you? How much do you want it? I’m gonna echo that statement to my teammates and I know our leaders of this team will do the same thing.”
Boston has been among the top-three teams most of this season in the East and now are a game behind the Toronto Raptors for the best record in the Eastern Conference. The Celtics will play 14 of their remaining 23 games after tonight on the road, with their post All-Star schedule beginning away from the TD Garden against Detroit and New York – two teams that have each beaten the Celtics earlier this season.
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“Coming out of the All-Star break, the wheels are really, really going at that point,” Irving said. “We only have a certain amount of games to cement our identity as a team before going into the playoffs.”
And while it isn’t a topic of discussion, the Celtics understand the habits they gradually build on today, will have a direct impact on how they fare in the postseason.
That’s why coach Brad Stevens has been consistent all season in expressing what he sees as a difference between his team’s record and their overall play.
“I’ve said all along, I don’t think we’re quite as good as our record,” Stevens said. “We gotta get a lot better. I still feel that way.”
Driving that point home becomes a lot easier when you’ve lost three of four and trailed by 20 or more points in each of the losses.
But even before the recent skid, Stevens has been the team’s hardest critic, reminding folks of the team’s flaws even when they were flourishing on the floor in terms of winning games.
The need for improvement is not lost on veterans who know how quickly success can be transformed into struggles.
And while Boston’s offense has had its problems, Al Horford maintains it is the team’s defense that has to in many ways help jumpstart the offense.
“We have to be able to play faster, we have to be able to play with more pace on offense to have any success,” Horford said. “It starts with the defensive end and transitioning into offense. If we’re able to get turnovers or get the ball in-bound quickly and fly up the floor that will help us.”