Sometimes we forget that a big part of why Brad Stevens is in Boston is because of what he has done as a coach this time of year.
He led a pair of Butler teams to deep postseason runs before coming up short in a pair of national title games.
Well, he’s embarking on a different kind of March Madness in leading the Celtics to a string of improbable wins, the latest being a 105-100 victory at Portland on Friday night.
It was the kind of victory that when you start to roll out the reasons why Stevens should be this season’s Coach of the Year winner, folks will use the win at Portland as an example.
The Blazers are not only one of the better teams at home, but they came in having won 13 of 14 games with the lone loss coming to Houston, which has the best record in the NBA.
But what made the victory so unexpected was the cut-and-paste lineup Stevens has employed because of a long rash of injuries.
Kyrie Irving missed his fifth consecutive game and is expected to be lost for another three to six weeks after having a procedure to on Saturday to help alleviate some of the soreness in his left knee.
Jaylen Brown has missed several games with a concussion, but he has progressed to where he's now questionable for the game in Sacramento on Sunday night.
Boston was also without Marcus Smart (right thumb) who won’t be back until sometime in the playoffs.
And that doesn’t factor in Gordon Hayward (dislocated left ankle) or Daniel Theis (torn meniscus, left knee), both out for the season.
It’s easy to chalk up Stevens’ success to great Xs and O’s work.
But he’s doing more than that.
He’s inspiring a level of confidence in players that generated results exceeding all expectations; that is, expectations outside of their locker room.
Even when this team struggled with no clear signs of hope on the horizon, they didn’t blink.
Rather than use their less-than-ideal state as a justification for poor play, they funneled that energy and focus into becoming a better team - not better players, but a better team.
Because frankly, that is what we’ve seen from this group all season. Of course, you have your star in Irving, but this team has been a get-it-done-or-else squad all year that doesn’t get too locked into the success or struggles of any one teammate.
And that has allowed Boston to withstand the kind of injuries to key players that would have crippled many other teams.
But with the lack of bodies, there has been a lack of respect for how good this team really is.
Stevens has tapped into that and used it to help focus this team on playing great and most important, giving themselves a chance to win regardless of the opponent, regardless of how dire a situation may be.
And that has created the kind of March Madness Celtics fans are absolutely lovin’ right now.