BOSTON - The Celtics learned plenty in their short playoff run last season, but one lesson stood out above all the others: It's pretty damn hard to win a playoff game.
And after two games in their opening playoff series against the Hawks, you got the same impression.
Extremely slow starts had them playing catch-up for much of the series. Playing with a legitimate lead? They didn't know what that was.
Until Friday's Game 3, anyways.
The C's got hot from the start, built a lead, and then held off a Hawks run to earn their first playoff win in the Brad Stevens era.
And if seeing really is believing, well, Friday's win could go a long way.
"Feels great," Evan Turner said. "It definitely feels great, especially defending home court. You know after the game we had last time, we had to bounce back. We have to stay consistent with it."
Nobody has been more vocal about needing to get that first win than Isaiah Thomas. And he took matters into his own hands Friday night by dropping career-high 42 points on 12-for-24 shooting. The 40-point club is an exclusive one that includes named like Larry Bird, John Havlicek, and Paul Pierce.
But after being told that he was now a member of that "club", Thomas was quick to change the focus to winning while still acknowledging how special it is to be up with those names.
"I’m just glad we got the win, first and foremost," Thomas said. "But, I mean, that makes me feel happy, just to be in same category of those great players and I just want to follow in the footsteps of all the Celtics greats. I know that starts by winning. And then other than winning, winning championships. We’re far from that, but I still want to have my name up there, so I’m happy about that."
One win doesn't win you a playoff serious, though. The Celtics have plenty of work to do, and that means Brad Stevens won't revel in his first NBA playoff win.
“Game Sunday," Stevens said flatly. "It’s great. It’s better than the alternative. But this team’s too good to do anything but focus on what’s next.”