The Celtics have talked a lot over the last week or two about what they have left to play for this season, given that they're 20 games under .500 and looking pretty hopeless in their quest to nab a playoff spot. When the most compelling storyline down the stretch is whether you're angling for the No. 4 spot in the draft lottery or the No. 5, it's hard for the coaches and players to stay motivated.
But in their search for inspiration, one line of thinking persists in the Celtics' locker room, and it's one that helped power them to a 91-84 win over the visiting Brooklyn Nets tonight. For Boston at this juncture, it's all about the P word.
"We talked the other day about the idea of pride," coach Brad Stevens said. "For me, it was about making sure that we communicated, that we were louder, we more more together, we were more engaged. With us tonight, it was obvious from the get-go."
Despite all the losses they've endured since New Year's (the team is 8-23 in 2014), the Celtics' pride still means a lot to them. Their egos took a big hit on Wednesday night, when they endured a 20-point drubbing against Golden State, and winning tonight helped the team heal emotionally.
This one, the Celtics led wire to wire. Jeff Green drilled a jumper to open, Jerryd Bayless drew a foul from Shaun Livingston in the act of a 3 and hit all three free throws, and the team never looked back from up 5-0. The Celtics were bolstered by a killer night on the glass (outrebounding the Nets 51-28) and defending the 3-point line (the Nets shot 4-for-30).
"It was big for us," Kelly Olynyk said of the win. "Especially for the fans, to get a win at home is huge. It should bring some life back to this team, this locker room and this city."
The Celtics probably won't have a lot of games like this. Despite heaps of turnovers and a lot of defensive breakdowns, they still snuck away with a win against a decent Nets team. But fluky nights like this happen sometimes, and with all the misery the Celtics have been through, they'll gladly take the win.
The mindset from here is to hope this win sets a tone for the rest of the season. The Celtics won't win every game, but they can hope to keep playing with the same spirit that fueled them against the Nets.
"Let's have fun," said Kris Humphries. "Let's just play hard and have fun, and whatever happens happens. Basketball's a fun game, and if we just lay it all out there, it'll be fun for us and it'll be fun for the fans. That's at the heart of why we got into this game."
Added Jared Sullinger: "I just think this team is special because we come out every night and we want to win. Anybody can just throw in the season and say, 'What are we playing for?' but you never know what can happen. Tonight was a big win for us, and hopefully we can build on it."