The Time is Now for a Celtics Playoff Push
WALTHAM, Mass. – There's a different vibe running through the Boston Celtics practice facility nowadays. It truly feels like this team is gearing up to make their final push as the NBA Playoffs rapidly approach.
It makes sense that this type of energy has now begun to populate the facility. Only twenty-four games remain on the team’s schedule, their roster is seemingly set and both the All-Star break and trip out West are in the rearview mirror.
All of those factors are leading the Celtics to believe that this is the time for them to buckle down and make a push. It’s officially go-time.
“I love this time and part of the season,” Doc Rivers said before Monday’s practice. “It’s fun.”
It sure is, and that’s why the energy is up in Waltham, Mass. Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett were the only two Celtics regulars who spoke to the media on Monday. Both of them seemed to be recharged after two days off and both of them spoke about the remaining portion of Boston’s season. They attacked that topic in different ways, but their message was one and the same.
Pierce, unlike Rivers, who had no knowledge of the current Eastern Conference standings, acknowledged that there is plenty of potential for Boston to move up from its current seventh seed in the East. The C’s woke up Monday morning just two games back of the fourth-seeded Hawks and they trail the Knicks by five games for the top spot in the Atlantic Division. Those minimal gaps mean that every contest is of the utmost importance.
“We have to understand that this is the stretch run of the season and every game at this point is a huge game for us because it could be the difference between the eighth seed and the fourth seed,” said Pierce. “Coming down the stretch, it’s important that we play our best possible basketball right now with a sense of urgency.”
Garnett, sitting about 10 feet from Pierce as the captain was making those comments, simultaneously made parallel statements.
As Garnett spoke, he made sure to emphasize that he and the Celtics are taking the rest of the season one game at a time. He consistently mentioned tomorrow night’s game in Philadelphia and at one point said, “Winning tomorrow is the goal.” However, he also chose to touch on the importance of Boston’s final six weeks of the regular season.
“All of these games are important,” Garnett said. “Second half of the season, we need all of these games coming up. We have 24, 25, 26 games (left) – I don’t even know – so all of these games in the second half are more important. Very, very important for us right now.”
Garnett's mindset isn't exclusive to him and this Celtics team. That same sense of urgency is beginning to permeate throughout the rest of the league as well. This weekend’s NBA Sunday Showcase on ABC was a testament to that fact. Both games, one in New York between the Heat and the Knicks, and another in Los Angeles between the Thunder and the Clippers, went down to the wire. All four championship contenders mentioned the importance of those games in regard to the upcoming playoffs. None of them wanted to lose.
The effort and heart that were displayed in those games are what we should expect out of the Celtics over the final 24 games of their regular season. They recognize where they stand on their schedule as well as any other team in the league.
“I love the way the All-Star break ended, that it was past the halfway point,” said Rivers. “Because now you get out of the All-Star break and you’re in your run, and you can see that.”
This time of the year engages all of the senses. Rivers can see it. The media can hear it. Anyone in Waltham can literally feel it. This is the time to put up or shut up when it comes to postseason positioning.
“From this point forward,” said Pierce, “we’ve got to get better if we’re trying to look to do some damage in the playoffs.”
In other words, the time for the Celtics to do their damage is now.
It’s officially go-time in Boston.