BOSTON – Win or lose, Brad Stevens isn’t a big rah-rah guy when it comes to speaking to his team.
And while he knows better than most the factors that go into a game’s outcome, he has maintained from the time he arrived in Boston in 2013 that attributing losses to not having this player or that player was a non-negotiable item that he refused to ever entertain.
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That’s why as impressed as many were with how well the injury-riddled Celtics played in a 125-124 double-overtime loss to Washington, Stevens made his sure his postgame comments centered around his players not getting too caught in the good-try, good-effort sentiment many had for them.
“Coach [Stevens] came in after the game and said he doesn’t really care if we don’t have all of our starters or our players,” said Terry Rozier. “Our job is to go out there and win.”
And they came oh-so-close to doing that on Wednesday night, having led by as many as 20 and seemingly being a defensive stop at the end of regulation and a made basket at the end of both OTs away from getting the win.
But this game, like all of the rest, was a teachable moment, the kind that will pay dividends for the Celtics at some point down the road.
Here are five takeaways from the loss:
Even with a reconfigured bench that wasn’t nearly as deep on talent or scorers, the second unit still managed to make its share of plays and impact the game positively for Boston. And by the end of the night, the bench actually wound up outscoring the Wizards’ second unit 42-41, which may not seem like that big a deal until you see the second unit consisted of two rookies (Abdel Nader and Semi Ojeleye), a center the Celtics picked up after he was bought out a couple weeks ago (Greg Monroe) and an undersized guard who wasn’t in the NBA last year (Shane Larkin).
He has been praised often for his coaching acumen and X’s and O’s, but what really stood out in the Wizards loss was his ability to motivate and inspire his team. Nader. Ojeleye. Guerschon Yabusele. All have had a limited role this season and yet played with a high level of poise and focus when their opportunity to play meaningful minutes arrived. Give the players credit, for sure. But some of the credit needs to go to Stevens, who kept them engaged and because of that, ready to play when their opportunity arrived.
HOME (NOT SO) SWEET HOME
The Celtics are going to have home-court advantage for most of the postseason, but is that a good thing? The loss was yet another TD Garden defeat for the Green Team. It brings their home record since Jan. 1 to 7-8. To put Boston’s play at home in perspective, of the 15 other teams that would be in the playoffs if the season ended today, 10 of them have a better home record than the Celtics, whose overall record is the fourth-best in the league.
The Celtics came up short, but one of the silver linings was the play and presence of Marcus Morris. We’ve seen him go to work on second unit guys, but it was refreshing to see how he would handle himself as the team’s go-to guy. He lit the Wizards up for a season-high 31 points which helped position them for the potential win.
Most would agree, including Rozier, that there’s still room for him to grow as a scoring playmaker. But the more he plays, the clearer his progress becomes to all. Rozier’s confidence as a scorer just grows by leaps and bounds from one game to the next. But it's his ever-improving game as a playmaker that will ultimately land him a job as a starter whether it’s in Boston or elsewhere. He showed the ability to deliver both in getting his shot as well as getting others involved by tallying a near double-double of 21 points and nine assists to go with five rebounds and a career-high three blocked shots.