The Boston Celtics fell 117-109 to the Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday, but Brad Stevens stressed how encouraging of a win it was both after the game and in his media availability with reporters Thursday.
He stressed that the loss even looked better than a few of Boston’s wins this season.
That’s because despite their winning 8-5 record, currently in third place in the NBA’s Eastern Conference, the Celtics haven’t actually played that great to this point.
Sure, Stevens has had to get creative creating his lineups thus far with so many players missing time, including starting point guard Kemba Walker and, currently, star forward Jayson Tatum.
Not to mention, the Celtics were forced to miss a lot of practice time and postpone a stretch of games thanks to COVID-19.
But Stevens and his team aren’t using any of those excuses.
“I think our biggest concerns are, even when we’ve been winning, even when we’ve had more guys available, whatever the case may be, we’re just not — I don’t think we’re playing at a level that’s going to be sustainably competitive,” Stevens said Thursday.
“So we have to play better and that’s the bottom line.”
He saw them trending that way in the game against Philadelphia, which came down to the wire.
Ultimately, 42 points from center Joel Embiid was too much to contain with Tatum out and Walker only in his second game back with the team all season.
You can hang your hat on that.
“I thought last night we got a little bit closer to that and it took a really great game by a great player to separate them from us,” Stevens said. “So that was encouraging. But it’s not just about those other guys getting to feeling better themselves. It’s about our team improving.”
We’ll see if they can keep progress headed in the right direction on Friday in another game against the Philadelphia 76ers.
Tip off is at 7:30 p.m. ET.