Don’t expect Danny Ainge to lose faith in the Boston Celtics.
Even if the C’s enter the NBA playoffs as the Eastern Conference’s fourth or fifth seed — the most likely scenario given the current standings — and without all of their issues ironed out, the team’s president of basketball operations will continue to drive Boston’s bandwagon.
That doesn’t mean Ainge isn’t cognizant of the Celtics’ flaws, which appeared again Monday night in Boston’s 114-105 loss to the Denver Nuggets at TD Garden. It’s simply a reflection of the confidence he still has in the Celtics’ NBA Finals hopes despite what he calls an “inconsistent” season to date.
“There’s been a few games here and there when we’ve played really well,” Ainge said, according to the Boston Herald. “It’s like you take one step forward and take a step backward, and then you take two steps forward and take another step back.
“But I feel like there’s a lot of good things I see on our team. I feel like we need to be healthy. We need to be right. And I feel like our minds are getting in the right place, and that’s a good thing. We weren’t thinking (against the Nuggets), but it wasn’t a lack of effort. It was falling asleep on some plays or not paying attention, but it wasn’t some deep-rooted issues that can’t be fixed. We could have played well and still lost against a team like Denver. They’re a very good team.”
The Celtics’ loss to the Nuggets dropped their record to 43-28. They entered Tuesday in fifth place, one game behind the Indiana Pacers (44-27) and 2 1/2 games behind the Philadelphia 76ers (45-25).
It’s hardly the worst-case scenario for the Celtics, who still boast one of the most talented rosters in the NBA. And Ainge actually is encouraged by what he’s seen from the Celtics of late, even though they’re running out of time to solve their lingering problems before the playoffs begin.
“Yeah, I don’t believe you can flip a switch, but I see a lot of things I like on our team,” Ainge said, per the Boston Herald. “I like a lot of our energy. We have lapses, but I feel a lot of it is inexperience and maybe communication that we need to get better at.
“At this stage of the season, we’re still playing lineups out there that probably haven’t played much together. We saw (Al) Horford and (Aron) Baynes out there more than maybe we’ve seen them all year, and that was the foundation of our defense last year. Again, I’m not making excuses. I’m not panicking. I feel much better about our team today than I did two weeks ago.”
Next up for the Celtics: a date with the Sixers on Wednesday night in Philadelphia. After that, Boston will have 10 games remaining on its regular-season schedule before it’s really time to put up or shut up.
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Thumbnail photo via Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports