Celtics Ready for Much-Needed All-Star Break

CHICAGO – There may not be another team in the NBA that is more deserving of an All-Star break than the Boston Celtics.

Having played six games – all in different cities – over the last nine nights, Boston is running on fumes as it enters All-Star Weekend.

The C’s capped off their hectic stretch Thursday night with a 104-103 loss in Chicago, but the defeat didn’t completely damper their spirits as they observed the bigger picture of what they had accomplished.

Not only had Boston won four of six during a nine-night span, but it had done so despite facing a number of injuries and absences.

Avery Bradley missed the entire pre-All-Star stretch with an Achilles injury, which dates back to Jan. 7. Jae Crowder was absent for a pair of games due to a family matter. Jaylen Brown missed his last three games because of a hip flexor injury. And Gerald Green battled illness in Dallas and played through a heel injury in Chicago.

In spite of all of those troubles, no team enteres the break hotter than the Celtics – winners of 11 of their last 13 games.

“We played a good stretch of basketball in these last 12, 13 games,” said big man Kelly Olynyk following Thursday’s loss. “It was tough. There were a lot of games on the road, a tough travel schedule, but we fought through it and we managed to win enough games.”

Thursday night was one of the rare instances over the last three weeks that Boston did not experience success in the win column. Though it still displayed toughness during the loss as it fought Chicago tooth and nail to the final buzzer on the second night of a back-to-back.

Isaiah Thomas led the charge for the C’s, scoring a game-high 29 points on the night. Jimmy Butler, however, spoiled the effort by sinking two clutch free throws with 0.9 seconds on the clock to clinch the one-point victory.

“I thought we played a pretty good game,” said Brad Stevens. “And all things considered, with six (games) in nine (nights) and the travel and everything else, I was proud of the way we competed … I feel good about the team and I feel good about the direction we’re headed.”

Despite playing with the gas tank near empty, Boston has shown great resilience of late. One can only imagine how an All-Star break could reenergize this team.

“It was taking wear and tear on a lot of people’s legs,” said Marcus Smart of the recent tough stretch, “so All-Star break will be a really good time for everybody to kind of relax and get their bodies back right and finish out the season.”

While Isaiah Thomas and the coaching staff won’t get to rest just yet, since they will be participating in this weekend’s All-Star festivities, the rest of the team will get a head start on recharging their bodies.

“They’ll work with our strength and conditioning staff and they’ll work with our trainers,” said Stevens. “We talk with individuals about the opportunity to get rest, but also to keep conditioning up. So they all have individual plans that have been or will be communicated to them.

“But this is as much of a time to get rest as anything else. This has been a heck of a stretch we’ve been on recently, so this (break) is coming at the right time from the standpoint of that, and then hopefully getting healthy.”

Added an upbeat Olynyk, “We’ll go get a little bit of rest, get away from the game for a little, reset mind and body, and come back for the [final stretch] ready to rock.”