Persistent Celtics Continue to Find Ways to Win

Boston pulls off fourth straight double-digit comeback with win vs. Knicks

BOSTON – If Boston’s five-game home stand taught us anything over the last nine days, it’s that the Celtics are a remarkably persistent team.

The C’s faced double-digit deficits during each their last four games, yet managed to crawl back and win every single one of those contests.

The latest, a 105-104 last-minute comeback win over the New York Knicks Friday night, was the definition of a gritty, never-say-die victory.

It may not have been pretty, but it was a win nonetheless, and one that Boston can certainly build off of.

This was just one of those games where things were not going Boston’s way throughout the majority of the contest. The C’s experienced inconsistent offensive stretches, they lacked communication on the defensive end, and the Knicks – particularly Carmelo Anthony – seemed to be hitting every difficult shot under the sun.

Boston was down 100-93 with less than three minutes remaining in the game and had made just two field goals over the previous six and a half minutes. Fortunately, the C’s have a short memory when it comes to offensive lulls, as they went on a last-minute tear to shock the Knicks.

The Celtics made six baskets during the final three minutes, while limiting New York’s offense to just two field goals during that span.

Jared Sullinger, who was celebrating his 24th birthday, was a key contributor down the stretch. He fed Jae Crowder with two consecutive full-court outlet passes for a pair of easy fast break buckets, and also added a cutting layup of his own.

“We kept fighting, we kept battling and we turned it up,” said the birthday boy. “Everybody made their fair share of plays and it was a big-time win for us. It just shows the maturity of this team.”

That maturity, explains Jae Crowder, has only evolved as the season has rolled along. The early-season version of the C’s struggled to close out games, but now it has become their specialty.

“We knew it was going to be a long season and we didn’t get discouraged when we blew games or when the games got out of control for us,” reflected Crowder. “We knew we had to get better, and I feel like we’ve done that as a team as the season’s gone on.”

The Celtics trailed for nearly the entire game Friday night, and were down by as many as 11. That’s not an incredibly large deficit to overcome, but it seemed like Boston just didn’t have enough juice to do so on this occasion.

“I thought that we had it at the start of the game, and then I thought we got deflated a little bit by their tough shot making,” said C’s coach Brad Stevens.

Many teams would not be able to re-inflate themselves in such situations, but the C’s do not panic when they face late-game deficits.

“We’re poised in those situations, we believe in each other,” said Isaiah Thomas, who tallied game-highs in points (32) and assists (eight), while committing zero turnovers. “We know we were confident in each other, and I know when I have the ball I feel like I can do anything with the ball and my teammates feel the same way. So I just feel like we’re getting better in those situations where we’re just poised and not in a rush and everything slows down for us.”

That being said, Stevens emphasized after the game that Boston can’t rely on these types of last-minute come-from-behind wins on a nightly basis.

In order to avoid such scenarios, the team needs to play more consistent ball, and a key to doing so is having better communication.

“We’ve got to limit those spots where we play like we did tonight where we weren’t talking,” said Thomas. “We weren’t engaged on both ends of the floor and it almost cost us the game.”

“Luckily we got back into it and snuck out a win. But if we want to be the best team we possibly can, we’ve gotta limit those.”

These types of ugly, comeback wins are needed throughout the course of a season, however. They build character, grit, and most importantly, belief. The belief that no matter the deficit, no matter the situation at hand, there is always a chance to pull out a win. And that type of attitude is critical come playoff time.

“I do think that if you are able to win a couple of close games,” said Stevens, “or are able to execute and are able to get stops or whatever the case may be, I think that does build a trust and belief that you’re going to have a shot.”

Boston will certainly need to take that attitude with them when they hit the road this weekend. Next stop is Cleveland on Saturday, and the C’s will certainly need to maintain their poise and relentlessness as they face off against the beast of the East.

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