BOSTON — Fans who have turned out at TD Garden over these past few weeks have witnessed something seldom seen in these parts over the last two years: good basketball.
As the Boston Celtics surge toward a potential playoff spot, they have been nearly unbeatable on their home court. Monday night’s 108-89 demolition of the Philadelphia 76ers was their ninth in their last 10 games at the Garden.
Included in that run have been victories over the Atlanta Hawks and Memphis Grizzlies — two of the NBA’s most formidable opponents — and the lone defeat was a five-point loss to the league-best Golden State Warriors. It was a drastic departure from the previous 39 days, during which Boston dropped seven of nine on Causeway Street.
The stretch of success has paid off in the standings. The Celtics enter Tuesday in ninth place in the Eastern Conference but tied record-wise with the Indiana Pacers and Miami Heat for the No. 7 seed.
“I saw that we were improving every single game,” said guard Avery Bradley, who scored 20 points in the win over Philadelphia, “and I knew we would have a chance if we set our mind to it and started speaking in to existence, and that’s what we were doing. We never thought we didn’t have a chance to make the playoffs. Now, we’re right there.”
Borderline playoff teams like the Celtics have success at this point in the season by winning games they’re supposed to win, and those on their respective home floors certainly fall into that category. Garden wins hold significance to Brad Stevens from a hometown pride standpoint, but the head coach cautioned against placing too much stock in where a given game is played.
“It’s important to me,” Stevens said before Friday’s game, “and I talked about this when we were at our lowest of points, that when we play in here (at TD Garden), you represent yourself like a Boston sports team should, and play the right way and play with the right mindset and play with the right toughness, and all those things. We haven’t been perfect, and we’ve missed some opportunities, but I really don’t talk about home and road other than that. We talk about what happens between those lines. We never mention, ‘Hey, you’ve got to play this way to win on the road.’ I don’t believe in that. But at the same time, we kind of counter that with, ‘Yeah, we’ll gladly ride the momentum of a home crowd.’ We don’t spend a lot of time talking about it, but there’s an expectation to play the right way here, and certainly we have that of ourselves.
“I don’t think it matters,” Stevens continued. “If you make too big of a deal of the road, then you think you’re going to get it easy at home, and that’s just not the way it works. You make too big of a deal at home, then you make the road out to be this unconquerable mountain, and that’s not the way it works.”
Thumbnail photo via Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports Images