The Boston Celtics don’t care.
Oftentimes, it’s their on-court passiveness that stands out most. A lackadaisical effort in Game 1 against the Philadelphia 76ers. A careless performance against the Houston Rockets in the middle of March. A lifeless loss to the Washington Wizards that ended their chase for the one seed.
But simultaneously, their off-the-court stoicism has bode them well.
After their disastrous Game 1 performance against Philadelphia, the Celtics were disappointed—but they weren’t panicking. They remained calm, focused, and determined to make things right.
“Obviously, when you lose, you always feel like you can play better,” Jayson Tatum said post-game. “We’ll watch film tomorrow. I’m certain there are a lot of things that we can do better. And prepare for Game 2.“
Tatum’s response exudes a feeling of general relaxation. When the Celtics lose, the main topic of conversation is often how they will “be better next time.” And that routinely leads to an uneasy feeling among fans.
It emanates the belief that the Celtics don’t care enough, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. After Game 2, head coach Joe Mazzulla revealed that the Celtics were “pissed” for two days straight following their Game 1 loss.
Rather than spew their anger outward, they internalized it, choosing to remain calm in the face of the public. It’s a tactic they’ve chosen to employ all season.
“It’s all perspective,” Horford said when asked about the team’s response. “Like before that [loss to the Knicks], we won a really tough game in Philly and beat a team that plays well in Indiana coming out of the break. So, it was just one loss.”
Immediately after that win came their infamous three-game losing streak. Three double-digit leads, three losses for the Celtics. After that, Jaylen Brown showed some emotion.
“In the midst of the storm, I think that was a valiant effort,” said Brown, “But there are no moral victories in this s***, alright? We got to win games, period.”
But that was as far as the outward emotion went.
Last season, Ime Udoka applied a style of coaching that was predicated on calling out his players. He would constantly say who had to be better, what they did wrong, and why. Marcus Smart even got in on the action at the start of November, publicly stating that Tatum and Brown don’t pass the ball.
This year, Boston has remained level-headed. An approach Tatum has enjoyed throughout the course of his career.
“Being able to laugh it off,’’ Tatum said after dropping a dud in the Celtics’ first game of the 2020 Bubble (a loss). “Can’t do nothing about it now. You just have to focus on the next game, and whether you play good or bad, I think that’s always how I approach it.’’
And while this choice may be exasperating after losses, it’s encouraging after wins.
Fans may jerk their heads back in frustration when they hear identical mantras after a Celtics loss, but Bostonians should take comfort in the fact that those same sayings after each victory.
It’s been that way since the first game of the season.
“It’s just one game,” Brown said after the Celtics’ Opening Night win over the 76ers. “We got 81 more to go. So you can’t get too high or too low. [Tatum and I] both understand that.”
Fast forward an entire season and a playoff round later, and the Celtics feel the same way.
Boston bounced back in a big way on Wednesday night, humiliating the 76ers in Joel Embiid’s return to action. They picked up a 121-87 victory and tied the series at 1-1.
Mazzulla, Brown, and Malcolm Brogdon took to the podium in the main media room post-game. Not a single one of them cracked a smile.
“This is one game,” said Brogdon. “They came out and played a great game in the first one. James played great. I thought tonight, we flipped the script. I thought we did a great job on him and a great job overall. But that’s one game, and it doesn’t mean anything if there’s no carryover.”
In the shadows of defeat, the Celtics don’t care about the loss. They don’t care to dwell in the past, nor do they spend time sulking.
After a win, it’s the same mindset.
The Celtics are all business. Never too hot. Never too cold. Always onto the next.