Riding Momentum into LA, C's Focus More on Selves Than Revenge
LOS ANGELES – To the Boston Celtics, their five-day stay in Los Angeles isn’t about seeking revenge against the Lakers and the Clippers, who both downed the C’s in shocking fashion last month at TD Garden. Instead, it’s about continuing to build momentum off of their hot start to their four-game road trip.
Boston has already downed Golden State and Sacramento on this trip, with the Warriors win coming in blowout fashion and the Kings victory coming off of a game-winner during the final seconds. Now the Celtics are looking to win their third straight Saturday night against the Lakers by continuing to block out the noise and concentrating on themselves.
“Man, I think this is about us,” forward Marcus Morris said after Friday afternoon’s practice at UCLA. “It’s about building on our way toward the Playoffs and trying to continue to build.
“We had two good road wins. Just trying to keep building on that, keep going, and keep everything together and try to click at the right time.”
Kyrie Irving, who will return to the lineup Saturday after missing one game with a left thigh contusion, relayed a similar sentiment to that of Morris. Boston’s All-Star point guard believes that the remaining 16 games of the season will be most important to the C’s, because this is their opportunity to get the ball rolling at a high speed as they approach the postseason.
“It’s the only thing that matters is hitting your stride,” Irving said, after he, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown competed in a brief one-on-one tournament following Friday’s practice session. “I think we all were waiting for the stride to be hit for us, especially going on the road, playing against high-level teams and being successful. We’ve just got to take care of that and continue to build the continuity that we need and the trust.”
The key to the C’s continuing to build momentum, in Brad Stevens’ eyes, is maintaining that continuity and trust in the face of adversity. As Stevens put it, “It’s about how you play when things don’t go well.”
Boston has undoubtedly had issues with playing well in the face of adversity this season. However, its most recent example was a sign of positive growth in that department.
Wednesday’s matchup with the up-and-coming Kings was on the second night of a back-to-back, the Celtics were missing their top scorer in Irving, and the Kings were fighting for a push into the Western Conference playoff bracket.
Boston held a lead for the majority of the night, but the Kings kept on coming. There were many instances in which the C’s could have folded, but instead, they responded each time in a fashion that made Stevens proud.
“I think offensively you can see it in understanding where we need to go, who needs to touch it, and how you need to execute,” he said while discussing the hallmarks of Boston’s response to the Kings. “And defensively, you’re going to make everything as difficult as possible. It doesn’t mean everything is going to work out your way, but you can see it in the play.”
Another example of a strong response arrived during the final sequence of the game.
With Boston leading by three, Gordon Hayward fouled sharpshooter Buddy Hield on a 3-point attempt that allowed the budding star to tie the game up with 7.6 seconds left in regulation. But just 5.6 seconds later, Hayward himself erased his mistake by canning a game-winning fadeaway along the baseline.
That bucket gave Boston a second straight victory on the road and provided a momentous push toward Los Angeles – where revenge is certainly attainable, but is not the top priority.