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C’s Put Monday's L in Rear View, Set Focus on Heat

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BOSTON – The Boston Celtics were hoping to enhance their chances of securing home court advantage for the first round of the Playoffs with a win against Charlotte Monday night. Unfortunately, that desire was thwarted as the Hornets put on an insuppressible offensive show, ousting the C’s 114-100 at TD Garden.

Charlotte shot 50.6 percent from the field while the C’s only hit 38.2 percent of their attempts. The major killer was that the Hornets closed out the first half on a unfathomable 31-3 run, giving them a 22-point lead at the break that the C’s could not nearly overcome.

Following a loss like this, there really is just one route the Celtics can take as they prepare for their final game of the regular season.

“Just leave it in the past and prepare for Wednesday,” according to Evan Turner.

Wednesday’s game against Miami is Boston’s first true “must-win” game of the 2015-16 season, because, simply put, the C’s have to win this game if they wish to secure home court advantage for the first round.

Despite the troubling performance Monday, which was preceded by a difficult 118-107 loss Saturday night in Atlanta, C’s coach Brad Stevens is not concerned about his players’ attitudes heading into Wednesday’s regular season finale at the Garden.

“Obviously when you get beat like that, nobody’s happy,” Stevens said referring to his team’s latest loss. “But they also have responded well in the past from tough nights, so I don’t anticipate that we won’t respond with a great, competitive effort on Wednesday.

“Now we’re playing a really good team, so we’ll see how that shakes itself out. But hey, this is part of competitive sports, right? You get your butt kicked, and, do you get back up or not?”

We all know the answer to that question, at least when it comes to this group of Celtics.

As Turner explained after the game, Boston just needs to “come out and get the mojo back.”

The “mojo” being Boston’s trademark: its defense. The C’s have struggled on that end of the floor over their last two games. They surrendered 67 first-half points Saturday night, then allowed a total of 70 points during quarters two and three Monday night.

When the Celtics hit the gym Tuesday afternoon in Waltham, Mass., defense is sure to be a major point of emphasis.

“That’s something we can improve on in practice tomorrow,” said defensive stalwart Avery Bradley. “Even myself, I got a few fouls early. I have to make sure I don’t gamble as much and put myself in foul trouble because I need to be out there raising that defensive intensity for our team.”

If Boston can up that defensive intensity Wednesday night, it would certainly point them in the right direction of pulling off a season sweep of a very talented Heat team. More importantly, it could give the Celtics some vital momentum heading into the Playoffs, which would likely not be the case if they ended the campaign on a three-game losing streak.

“Obviously we do want to be playing better on Wednesday night than we played tonight,” stated Stevens. “That starts at practice tomorrow.”

Hopefully a session at their sanctuary in Waltham will help the C’s get on the same page as they head into their must-win regular season finale.