Why Wednesday's Loss Felt Different Than Others to the Celtics

BOSTON – No matter how you slice it, Wednesday night was deposited into Boston’s loss column. It didn’t land there, however, without a step in the right direction.

For the first time in what felt like forever for the Celtics (although realistically, it was only two games), effort, energy and spirit were all present and accounted for. And with those characteristics in tow, Boston went back-and-forth with one of the league’s hottest teams before falling 97-92.

No one on the Celtics was satisfied with the loss, but if they were to suffer one, this was the fashion in which they’d have preferred to do so.

“Today was good,” head coach Brad Stevens said after the defeat. “I mean, it sucks we didn’t – we didn’t shoot the ball well, but that’s part of it.”

Stevens noted that despite the loss, his postgame message to the team was of the positive variety due to the fashion in which it competed.

“I actually just told the guys, like, ‘You walk out of here a little bit more encouraged, because the reason we lost, if anything, was we didn’t make shots and I think it was because we were pressing,’” he said.

Stevens and the C’s couldn’t have made such a statement as recently as one night prior, when they were picked apart by the Toronto Raptors during an embarrassing loss north of the border.

During that game up in Toronto, Boston’s effort, energy and spirit were all lacking. That led to poor body language, and that led to an ugly trend on the scoreboard.

Boston’s players and coaches were as disappointed after that defeat as they had been all season, and that disappointment was only compounded by the fact that a similar effort was put forth Saturday night in Chicago.

Those back-to-back performances were what made Wednesday night feel like a breath of fresh air to Boston. Seeing is believing, and the C’s saw themselves get back to playing a positive brand of basketball.

“I think our guys really wanted to play the right way, make certain shots, do certain things,” said Al Horford. “But I just appreciated the effort. Guys were playing hard, trying to do the right things. We just didn’t make enough plays to win.”

No one would have predicted ahead of the season that after Game 62, the Celtics would be talking about appreciating a high level of effort, but this is where the team stands. Effort, energy and spirit have been inconsistent markers for Boston all season long. Now is the time for the C’s to rid themselves of those ebbs and flows.

Wednesday night was the first time in what felt like forever that Boston showcased such characteristics. They were pleased with their effort despite suffering a loss, but they also fully understand that this outing should only be the first of many steps in the right direction in that regard.

“We have to take from that and we have to keep going,” said Marcus Smart. “We can’t detour from this.”

Wednesday night was a detour for the Celtics, but it was one from an effortless direction and onto a far more energetic route. It didn’t eliminate the sting of the loss to Portland, but it gave Boston something to build upon as it heads into the final 20 games of its season.

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