The NBA postseason gets underway this weekend, and we dare you to find a hotter team in basketball than the Boston Celtics.
The Celtics edged the Milwaukee Bucks 105-100 on Wednesday in a meaningless game for both teams to wrap up their regular-season schedule and carry a six-game win streak into the playoffs.
Boston has won eight of its last nine games, 24 of 36 since Feb. 2 and its last seven in a row on the road, where the C’s will begin their first-round series with the Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday.
?I think these guys enjoy playing on the road,” head coach Brad Stevens told reporters Wednesday night in Milwaukee. “I think these guys enjoy the challenge of doing that. And hey, we?re going to have to do that more starting this weekend. These are good things. This is part of the progress that we?ve been talking about, and hopefully we can build on it. Easier said that done, because if you just look at how we?re fortunate enough to get a chance to keep playing, but we?ve won a lot of close games that have allowed us to do that. Winning is tough.”
The toughest test of all awaits for the Celtics, whom nobody would have picked to be in this position before the season began.
Stevens’ club battled through near constant roster turnover (22 different players saw action this season), injuries to several of its “stars” (not that anyone on this team really warrants that tag) and a nasty, early-season habit of blowing huge leads to finish with 40 wins — a 62.5 percent increase from last season.
Still, against a Cavaliers team led by the NBA’s latest Big Three — LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love — nobody is giving the sub.-500 C’s much of a chance.
“It’s funny how people do a lot of things, scream out numbers, numbers, numbers and all this,” guard Evan Turner said after Wednesday’s game, via ESPN.com. “They look at everything that’s nonsense about the game, then try to tell you who can play and who can’t. We kind of reset ourselves every three weeks (due to trades during the 2014-15 season). It’s only like the last (30) games, we went (20)-10, and I think we gave away two or three games to some of the top teams in the league.
“Had we had this same team the whole year, it probably would have been a different situation. But it doesn’t matter. You still have to show up and play. All that other stuff, that doesn’t really matter. We came out and played. We came out and won big games on the road and earned our way to the playoffs.”
One particular result, however, stands out amid the Celtics’ cascade of wins since the trade deadline: a 110-79, Cavaliers-inflicted beatdown handed down March 3. It was the worst loss of Boston’s season, and one that showed exactly what LeBron & Co. truly are capable of.
Had Cleveland not sat its starters down midway through the third quarter, it could have won by 60.
The Celtics hope to make it a bit tougher on their opponent this time around.
“We’re going to play our hearts out every game,” forward Jonas Jerebko said, via ESPN.com. “It’s the first time in the playoffs for a lot of our guys. We’re gonna come out hungry.”
Thumbnail photo via David Richard/USA TODAY Sports Images