WALTHAM, Mass. — The mood was upbeat Friday at Boston Celtics practice, the team’s first of two before its first-round playoff series begins Sunday in Cleveland.
Few give the Celtics much chance against the loaded Cavaliers, but that doesn’t seem to be wearing on the players’ minds as they make their final postseason preparations.
“I just hyped up how fun it is,” guard Evan Turner said, when asked what he’d told his teammates about playing in the playoffs. “It’s really fun. I think that’s the biggest thing — enjoying yourself about it. Taking it seriously, obviously, but not going crazy over it or losing sleep over it. It’s a fun opportunity.
“We have nothing to lose, really. We’re playing with house money. It’s going to be hype. There’s going to be two great environments involved. You go to Cleveland, their fans are crazy, then you come back to Boston, and their fans are even crazier. So, it’s going to be fun.”
Turner knows a thing or two about playoff basketball, having reached the postseason in three of his first four NBA seasons. One of those seasons ended at TD Garden, as his Philadelphia 76ers fell to the Celtics in seven games in the 2012 Eastern Conference semifinals.
Turner is in the minority, however. Only five of Boston’s 15 players have seen playoff action.
Forward Jared Sullinger was a rookie when the Celtics last reached the postseason in 2013, but a season-ending back injury prevented him from suiting up in Boston’s opening-round loss to the New York Knicks. The big man said he’s “very excited” to be a playoff participant this time around and isn’t concerned about the experts discounting his team’s chances.
“We gave up a lot of big leads early in the season, so we’re kind of used to being counted out,” Sullinger said. “I think that’s what makes this team play so well. I think that’s what pushed us into the playoffs — everybody that said we couldn’t do it, we did it.”
For all intents and purposes, the playoffs started weeks ago for the Celtics. With five teams vying for the final two playoff spots in the East, any slip-up would have proved disastrous.
This must-win mentality has the C’s as prepared as possible for what’s to come, but as Turner cautioned, the postseason itself is an entirely different animal.
“When it comes down to situations and intensity of it and things like that, I think that kind of prepared us a little bit, obviously,” Turner said. “But obviously, this is going to be a tough series. We’re kind of battle-tested a little bit, but at the same time, there’s nothing like the playoffs.”
Thumbnail photo via Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports Images
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