Celtics look past tough loss and attempt to make a run

AP Photo

Celtics look past tough loss and attempt to make a run

Getting fired up for Saturday’s game at Houston was easy for the Boston Celtics.

They both rank among the top teams in the NBA this season and waged one of the most memorable games of the year.

When they met earlier this season, Boston had an epic comeback from 26 points down in the second half to beat the Rockets 99-98. And in the rematch on Saturday, Boston had Houston on the brink of defeat once again before the Rockets (49-13) -- owners of the best record in the NBA -- rallied in the final minutes of play for a 123-120 win.


Up next for Boston (44-20) is Chicago (21-41), a team that is a far, far cry from the Celtics’ last opponent and for that matter, most of Boston’s opponents this season.

“We need to have a great sense of urgency,” said Boston’s Al Horford. “The last time we went into Chicago, they blew us out. We have to make sure we’re really engaged.”

Horford is referring to Boston’s 108-85 loss at Chicago on Dec. 11 which is still the Celtics’ most lopsided defeat this season.

But both Chicago and Boston will field very different-looking teams tonight than what was on display back in December.

The Bulls no longer have Nikola Mirotic who has since been traded to New Orleans. And Zach LaVine, who was out while recovering from an ACL injury, is back in the fold.


And Boston didn’t have Kyrie Irving (quad bruise) or Marcus Morris (left knee rehab), their top scorer overall and top scorer off the bench, respectively.

Regardless, the Celtics have to approach this game with a similar mindset that we’ve seen since their return from the all-star break.

“We can’t disrespect no teams,” Morris said. “Everybody’s an NBA player, so we have to approach the game the same way. Obviously, they’re not as good as the Rockets but we’re fighting for something bigger than that.”

Boston has its sights on finishing with the top overall record in the East for the second straight season.

But it won’t be easy, not with the Toronto Raptors continuing to play good basketball.

Toronto (45-17) has won four straight and 11 of its last 12 and currently lead Boston by two games in the East.

With the regular season winding down and the Celtics continue to fight for the best possible playoff seeding, every game regardless of the opponent, is of great value.

And the Celtics need to continue playing that way.

“We don’t have any time to waste, so to … go into Chicago, feel them out, we don’t have time for that,” said Kyrie Irving. “We put our identity on the game and go from there. We execute at a high level and live with the results after that. It’s no time for this, trying to learn and try to figure out. Who cares what their record is? They’re playing hard. It’s our job to go out there and play hard as well.”


NBA: Congrats to the Celtics on the win, but they for sure should not have won

File Photo

NBA: Congrats to the Celtics on the win, but they for sure should not have won

The NBA officials' Last Two Minute report for Tuesday is out, and boy did the Celtics get away with one!

The league admitted to missing two infractions -- both committed by Marcus Morris -- on the possession on which Morris hit a game-winning three-pointer against the Thunder. 

The C's began the possession with Morris inbounding the ball, but a stopwatch revealed to the league that Morris did not release the ball within the five seconds allotted on an inbounding play. Had the correct call been made, the ball would have been turned over to the Thunder, who at the time held a two-point lead with 7.7 seconds remaining. 

Furthermore, video replay led the league to determine that Morris traveled prior to taking the shot. The video evidence that suggested this was that Morris was wearing an NBA jersey in the video, but also he moved his pivot foot prior to the release of his dribble. That call would have also given the Thunder the ball. 

What these nerds didn't consider is that the basketball gods have more power than their stopwatches. What a win. 

Celtics have shown a knack for the comeback this year

AP Photo

Celtics have shown a knack for the comeback this year

BOSTON -- As I made my way towards the Boston Celtics locker room following their 100-99 win over Oklahoma City on Tuesday night, I walked past co-owner Wyc Grousbeck, who, as you might expect, was pleased with what he had just witnessed.
“That was a good one,” he said.
That’s one way to describe it.


But explaining the Houdini-like way the Celtics seem to get out of some serious jams over and over again, and against really good teams, is indeed a head-scratcher for most.
It’s getting to the point where we’re running out of fresh adjectives to describe this team, which has a knack for the comeback.
“Improbable” doesn’t do justice to how Boston’s hit-the-lottery luck has played out so often on nights when it seemed on the doorstep of defeat.
And this town loves a good comeback story, whether it’s Tom Brady leading the Patriots to a Super Bowl win after being down by 25 points, or the Celtics spotting the NBA champ Golden State Warriors a 17-point cushion before rallying for a meaningful November win -- a rarity in the NBA.
But the obscure and unexpected have become standard in this seemingly alternate basketball universe that the Celtics play in, one that we have been bearing witness to all season.

I mean, look at their body of work:

DECEMBER 18: Down by one on the road at Indiana in the closing seconds of play in what appears to be a tough road loss, Terry Rozier steals and races down the floor looking like Deion Sanders in high-tops, for a game-winning dunk.

DECEMBER 28: Trailing the Houston Rockets by 26 points in the third quarter, they rally back and steal the win with not one, but two offensive fouls drawn in the last minute by Marcus Smart against perennial league MVP candidate James Harden.

JANUARY 11: In London, they erased a 22-point deficit and defeated Philly.

FEBRUARY 4: There was a buzzer-beater by Al Horford to beat Portland on Super Bowl Sunday.

And . . . well, you get the idea.

Boston has six wins by a single point this season, which is tied with Miami for the season lead and is one shy of tying the franchise record for one-point wins in a season. 

In addition, Boston has won 10 games this season in which it fell behind by 12 or more points. 
Winning so many games under less-than-ideal circumstances has not only padded the Celtics' win total, but also reinforced this team with a Teflon-strong mindset. They believe they're tthe ultimate practitioner of basketball necromancy, consistently finding a way to rise up from the basketball graveyard of defeat and win in dramatic fashion.

Like they did Tuesday night against the Thunder.

How can you bank on Carmelo Anthony, a career 81.2 percent free-throw shooter, missing a pair with less than nine seconds to play?
Or botching the play Brad Stevens drew up at the end of the game -- "We kind of messed [it] up," said Jayson Tatum -- but, rather than it leading to a turnover, instead becoming a game-winning 3-pointer by Marcus Morris with 1.8 seconds to spare? 


 It was another crazy ending in what has been a season filled with bizarre finishes, jaw-dropping rallies and a never-say-it’s-over brand of basketball that has kept Celtics fans on the edge of their seats all season.
“It’s great to be in a situation where you’re down six with under a minute to play or whatever it was, and you find a way to win the game,” said Stevens. “That’s going to be pretty unique, but they just kept playing the next possession and we were fortunate that that shot went down. That was a heck of a shot by Marcus."
A heck of a shot?
But in this bizarro world of Celtics basketball this season, it was predictable as the Thunder became yet another team to play Boston and leave wondering the same thing most Celtics fans do … “Did THAT just happen?