After a three-game losing streak, the Boston Celtics bounced back with a win at home against the Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday night. The win was made all the more important by the fact that they were headed out on a six-game road trip immediately afterward.
“Staying a little more poised and then continuing to execute, and continuing to play through,” Celtics big man Al Horford explained. “We went through a little. Obviously, some games there that we just gave games away, and we lost our composure a little bit. I feel like the last couple, we’ve been very conscious of taking advantage of the possessions and, good or bad, moving on. And I felt like we did that again tonight.”
Throughout their losing streak, the Celtics blew three double-digit leads. They were up 28 points against the Brooklyn Nets, 14 points against the New York Knicks, and 15 points against the Cleveland Cavaliers. But in each game, they allowed their opponent to get back into it.
But against the Hawks, they halted those attempts, despite Atlanta giving their best effort to shake things up. Boston was up by 16 points in the first half, but in the second half, the Hawks whittled down the lead to as little as five points.
“Just get back to what we’re supposed to be doing, right? We know the level we’re supposed to play at,” Jayson Tatum said post-game. “How connected we’re supposed to be, and that’s not gonna be perfect. It’s a game of runs. We know that they’re going to make runs, but what we did today was respond, unlike what we did in those three games that we lost.”
The Celtics made plenty of mistakes. There were silly fouls, unnecessary altercations, and plenty of defensive lapses. Atlanta was able to make the same sort of runs that Boston’s opponents did during their three-game losing streak. But this time around, the Celtics weathered the storm.
It was far from perfect, but it was progress. After falling short in the same way for three-straight games, the same scenario was thrown in their face. And instead of wilting under the pressure, they answered the call.
With how the Celtics have positioned themselves in the standings, there will always be a target on their back. But rather than concentrating on how their opponents are playing, Boston’s focus needs to be internal.
“I feel like we get most teams’ best shot every night,” said Horford. “And for us, it’s continuing to do the things that make us great. And that’s - we have to do a very good job defending, offensively, we have to play with good pace, and we have to limit those turnovers. And I think that doing that, that puts us in in a pretty good position to win games.”