No Moral Victory, but C's Showed Signs

TORONTO – The Boston Celtics don’t do moral victories. But that doesn’t mean they’re unable to get better while tallying a defeat.

Wednesday night’s season opener in Toronto resulted in a 93-87 loss for Boston. The team played very well in the first and third quarters, but struggled in the second and fourth periods. Those late-half struggles left the Celtics at 0-1 on the season but rookie head coach Brad Stevens saw some encouraging signs out on the court.

“I’m not a guy that takes a lot of positives away from losses, usually,” Stevens said just minutes after the loss, “but I am able to take away some things tonight that we got better at.”

Jeff Green rises up for a layup in traffic

Jeff Green attacked the basket for 10 shot attempts inside the restricted area.
Ron Turenne/Getty Images Sport

First and foremost, the Celtics got better at having a go-to scorer. The team did not have any player step up in that regard during the preseason. No one separated themselves as the top offensive option. Wednesday night, however, Jeff Green shined in that role while dropping in a game-high 25 points.

Wednesday night’s version of Green looked a lot like the one we saw in the latter stages of 2012-13. He attacked the basket and didn’t shy away from the offensive spotlight.

“Just attack. That’s my mindset every time I touch the ball is just attack,” Green said in the locker room after the game. “If the 3 is there, take it. If the jump shot is there, take it. But my mindset is just to get to the rim.”

Green was very successful in making those thoughts become a reality on Wednesday. He put his head down and attacked the rim to attempt 10 of his 16 field goals from within the restricted area. Green made five of those shots and then got to the free-throw line for another nine attempts. All in all, he totaled 17 points via shots in the paint and free throws.

Any coach would like to get that from his top offensive player. Stevens is no exception, and he wants to give Green as many opportunities as possible to maintain Wednesday’s momentum.

“He got out in transition. That’s what he does best,” Stevens said of Green. “I think the more we can get him the ball, the better.”

Determination is one area where the Celtics may not need to improve. This team fell behind several times Wednesday night, but it never gave up. Boston trailed by as many as 16 points in the third quarter but battled all the way back to even the game up at 71-71 heading into the final period. Though they didn’t come out on top, the C’s were pleased with their mental toughness in battling back into the game on several occasions.

“We fought,” said Green. “No matter how much we were down or fatigued, we fought to get back into the game.”

While the Celtics were fighting on the court, Stevens was noticing from the sideline that his players were doing all of the things that are typically associated with winning in this league.

“I thought it was really effort, physicality and ball movement on offense, and effort, physicality and challenging shots on defense,” Stevens said of Boston’s better quarters. “We were doing a better job of staying in front of our man and making them take shots so we could rebound.”

These are things that Stevens is sure to point out when the team watches film of this game. The Celtics know that they lost, but they also understand that they showed signs of great basketball.

“I just think it’s a game that we can build on,” said Brandon Bass. “It’s just a game that we can definitely get better from and there are some things that we can build on as far as things I saw out there that were positive.”

At the top of that list sits Green, who was a dominant offensive force. Below him sits the fact that the Celtics fought until the final buzzer and played like a well-oiled machine for half of their first game of the season.

Now it’s all about building on those positives, because those positives didn’t equal a win. The Celtics refused to walk out of the Air Canada Centre with a moral victory. They did, however, choose to recognize that they became a better basketball team despite their Opening Night loss.