Rondo, Celtics Still Have Much To Play For
WALTHAM, Mass. – Those on the outside of Boston’s locker room may believe that the Celtics won’t be playing for anything over their final five games of the season.
The guys on the inside politely disagree.
The Celtics believe that they’ll have a lot on the line over their final week of the regular season. They’ll be playing for wins. They’ll be playing for momentum. And sexiest of all, they’ll be playing to be spoilers.
Four of Boston’s final five opponents are either fighting for playoff seeding or fighting for their playoff lives. The one team from that group that isn’t eying the playoffs, the 76ers, just downed the Celtics on their home court Friday night.
All of these factors are playing into the mindset of the Celtics as they enter their final handful of games. Rajon Rondo, the team’s captain, expressed that fact loud and clear on Tuesday.
Rondo told reporters that the one thing he wants to do in these final five games is to “get some wins.” He discussed how this is a rare occurrence in which his team isn’t competing for a berth into the playoffs or for playoff seeding. Then, before a reporter could even finish reminding Rondo that Boston’s opponents are fighting for such things, the point guard interjected.
“Yeah, we want to be that team,” Rondo said.
Rondo is referencing being ‘that team’ that extinguishes the playoff hopes of its opponents. It all starts Wednesday night in Atlanta against a Hawks team that holds a slim two-game advantage over the Knicks for the eighth and final playoff spot in the East.
“Hopefully we can mess up Atlanta’s record a little bit more tomorrow and knock those guys out of the playoffs,” Rondo continued. “Every night I go out there and I try to compete and win. It will be a good game tomorrow and we’re going to compete.”
Rondo isn’t the only one who’s intrigued by the idea of spoiling an opponent’s playoff party. Jared Sullinger voiced his excitement as well.
“It’s beautiful to know that you possibly have a chance to spoil somebody’s playoff contention,” he said with a grin.
The second-year big man did, however, note that the spoiler mindset isn’t something that the Celtics have discussed amongst themselves.
“I think a lot of these guys know what’s going on,” said Sullinger, “and a lot of these guys know the seeding that’s going on in the Eastern Conference and we have a chance to mess that up.”
Brad Stevens understands that the Celtics can play the spoiler but he isn’t as intrigued by the idea as his players are.
“I don’t get a lot out of that,” he said. “I think it’s more about focusing on us. I’d like to see us feel better and build some momentum, so no, I don’t get a lot out of that personally.”
Stevens gets a lot more out of his players' improvements as they head into the offseason. He wants to see the Celtics take steps forward both as a team and as individuals. That’s what he’s playing for.
The players? They’d like to see the same, all while making an impact on the playoffs. That’s a lot to play for in the minds of the Celtics.