Boston's Winning Stretch Driven by Urgency, Togetherness
After trudging through a challenging February stretch, the Boston Celtics appear to be waking up and playing more to their standard just in time for the second half of the season.
Boston won three out of 11 matchups from Feb. 7-24, but it has since captured three straight victories against the Pacers, Wizards, and Clippers, respectively, and will have an opportunity to make it four straight Thursday night when it hosts a depleted Toronto Raptors team in the final game before the All-Star break.
The main difference that the C’s have noticed over the past week is how much their overall energy has improved.
“I think over the last three games we’ve had a greater sense of urgency,” veteran wing Semi Ojeleye said Thursday afternoon following Celtics shootaround in Brighton. “We know what’s at stake and that you can get behind the eight-ball, especially in a shortened season, and it can be tough to get to where we want to be before the postseason starts. So for us, our communication, our sense of urgency, and our togetherness has increased.”
Kemba Walker also made note of the team’s increased togetherness following Tuesday night’s win over the Clippers, saying how their chemistry played a significant role in enabling them to come out on top in the closely-contested contest.
“We’ve been playing tough, not letting little things affect us throughout the course of a game,” said Walker, who tallied a team-high 25 points during Tuesday’s 117-112 win. “We’ve been encouraging each other, picking each other up, just being overall great teammates over the course of a game, and that’s the difference.”
Such is an attitude that the Celtics must carry with them into Thursday night, through the All-Star break, and into the second half of the season, as the Eastern Conference playoff race is shaping up to be a crapshoot.
“I think to continue this, we have to realize that teams are going to come after us,” Ojeleye said. “So we can’t have nights where we try to take a night off or start slow or let go of the rope at any point because in this league, you don’t have that opportunity.”
With a forgettable month of February in the rear-view mirror, the Celtics can now focus on the opportunity that lies ahead of them. The second half of their schedule won’t be any easier than the first, but it can certainly be more successful for them if they continue to play with the energy, urgency and togetherness that they’ve displayed over the last three games.
“I’m excited for the group,” Ojeleye said. “We have to stay together. We’re expected to win here, and rightly so with the guys we have on this team. When we don’t meet expectations that we have of ourselves, we have to stay together and get even tighter. Through the second half of the year, we have to bring that from start to finish every game knowing that that teams are coming after us and we have to meet that.”