Celts Should Be Proud of Their Final Chapter
BOSTON – Wednesday night marked the final chapter of the 2013-14 Boston Celtics season. How fitting it was that the final pages of this story read so similarly to those before them.
Boston’s 82nd and final game of the season exemplified the 81 that came before it, and not because it marked off another tally in the loss column.
No, this contest was more symbolic than just a final result. This game represented everything the Celtics brought to the table since they came together on Sept. 30. Their grit. Their determination. Their accountability.
“They never really splintered,” Brad Stevens proudly said of his players. “Things like this can splinter you pretty easily, and they stayed together pretty well as far as standing up for one another and being a team and not pointing blame.”
That’s not easy to do in the midst of a 25-57 season. It wasn’t easy to do on Wednesday, either, when the Celtics had only eight available bodies and fell behind by as many as 26 points. Yet they continued to play their tails off, just as they have all season.
“I thought they really competed the better part of three of the last four games,” said Stevens. “A lot of teams may not have knowing that their season is over on Wednesday.”
That’s why this team is so unique. You just don’t see teams leaving it all on the line when vacation is right around the corner. Those who watched the Celtics take on the Cavaliers on Saturday got a first-person look at a team that had already mailed it in ahead of the finish line.
Such was not an option for Boston. This team was stronger than that. Better than that. Prouder than that.
“It shows the group of character and the type of guys we have. It starts with Danny (Ainge) and it starts with Brad (Stevens),” team captain Rajon Rondo said. “I think we continued that throughout the locker room, especially with the amount of guys we’ve had. Some games we’d dress 14 guys. Other games we’d dress eight. They gave it all they had every night.”
More often than not, that wasn’t enough to grab a win, but that’s OK. We all knew that the odds stacked against the Celtics this season. They were devoid of elite talent with the exception of Rondo, who didn’t return to the lineup until Jan. 17. The Celtics were supposed to lose this season – a lot – just like they did Wednesday night. But what they never allowed themselves to do was to take a day for granted.
“Everybody treated it like the first day of the season all season,” Stevens stated. “I think that that’s a good sign… I didn’t see any slippage in anybody’s work.”
As Rondo said, that mindset is established at the top with Ainge and it trickles down throughout every body that makes its way through the locker room. Players understand that being a Celtic is a privilege, not a right. Their duty is to work hard, play for the team and be accountable. Each and every player has met those standards this season, and the plan is for that trend to continue into the offseason.
“Everything matters, and we talk about that as a team,” Stevens said. “The rallying cry going into the offseason is every little thing that you do matters. If Kelly Olynyk is a better player next year because of his last three games, the last three games were critically important. If Phil Pressey is a better player because of the last three out of four games that he started, critically important.
“I think the bottom line is, we’re all shooting for something, and every single day and every single effort you put into it matters toward achieving it.”
The Boston Celtics bought into that bottom line from the opening tip of this season. That’s why every chapter of their book, all the way down to the final page, will read in a similar fashion
The Celtics lost for the 57th time Wednesday night, but they were not defeated. They showed grit, determination and accountability, just like they always did. Everything mattered to this group, all the way down to the final buzzer.
Wednesday night was a fitting way to bookend a lengthy and challenging season, one the Celtics should walk away from with their heads held high.