Five takeaways: C's follow a different script in Charlotte
BOSTON -- Remember when the Boston Celtics were a gritty, good-but-not-great team that seemed to play hard enough to be in just about every game they played?
Well they're a lot better now in terms of overall talent, but the days of always finding a way to keep games close appears to be a thing of the past.
But at this point in the season, how you win is irrelevant.
Win, baby, win is all that anyone cares about now.
That's why Boston's 121-114 victory at Charlotte on Saturday night was so important.
This was not a game that went according to script, not after Boston found itself trailing 104-97 courtesy of a 46-20 run by Charlotte.
The Celtics buckled down, defended at a high level and got big baskets from lots of players that propelled Boston to a 24-10 run to close out the game and get the victory.
"You don't want to be in this position, but we find out what we're about and things we want to work on," said Al Horford. "It's not like we mean to do this. Since we were put in this position, we responded well."
Here are five other takeaways from Saturday's game.
FLIP THE SWITCH
It's one of the more dangerous practices that some of the best teams in the NBA are guilty of from time to time. All indications are that the Celtics did just that in the second half against Charlotte, which went on a 46-20 run to take its biggest lead of the game, 104-97. But the Celtics responded the way most elite teams, do which is whatever it takes in order to get the win.
As much as the Celtics talk about defense being their foundation, they don't play it at a consistently high enough level to feel comfortable with it being there for them come playoff time. But if they are going to have a deep playoff run, they have to compete defensively at a high level for longer stretches. In the last three games, the Celtics have had a defensive rating of 115.9 which ranks 26th in the league in that span. For the season, Boston's defense rating of 105.7 ranks 12th in the NBA.
BRADLEY BOUNCE BACK
Avery Bradley has struggled with his shooting since returning to the lineup three games ago. In that span, he has averaged 12.0 points and 5.7 rebounds while shooting 31.7 percent from the field and just 22.2 percent on 3's -- all below his season average in those respective categories. But in the fourth quarter against the Hornets, coach Brad Stevens called Bradley's number and the 6-foot-2 veteran came up big. He finished with 15 points, 11 of which came in the decisive final period.
GRINDING IT OUT, PLAYOFF STYLE
The Celtics had to work a lot harder than they would have liked to in beating Charlotte, but there's tremendous value in that. Finding ways to win without playing great basketball is what playoff teams do all the time. And for the C's to go through that experience before they get to the postseason is definitely a good thing. It serves as a reminder of just how tough it is to win in this league, a lesson that should serve them well in the playoffs.
THE VOICE OF BRAD
When Brad Stevens talks, his players listen. That certainly was the case in the fourth quarter Saturday. His players had blown a 19-point lead and now found themselves trailing 104-97. "You're wrong if you don't think there'll be a game like this in the playoffs," Stevens told them. "Find a way to win it." That's exactly what they did in beating the Hornets, 121-114. Stevens gets lots of props for his X's and O's play-calling, but the way he connects with his players is impressive. If Avery Bradley goes on to finish the regular season strong and plays well in the playoffs, many will look back on Stevens making him the team's go-to guy in the fourth despite struggling with his shot most of the game. Those are the little things that can only strengthen the bond between Stevens and his players as they try and close out the season by stringing together a couple more wins before the playoffs.