After a poor shooting performance on Saturday, the Boston Celtics got back in the W column Monday night after a 118-112 win over the New Orleans Pelicans at TD Garden. It was their 2nd game of a seven-game homestand, and a solid effort while being undermanned with Kristaps Porzingis and Luke Kornet out. With the Celtics coming out flat to start the game, it wasn’t until the second half that Boston’s offense really came to life.
“I think we got a few stops, played with a little bit more energy,” said Jaylen Brown on the team’s second half resurgence. “We were missing a lot of shots, but defensively, that got us going a little bit. We found a way to get some stops and it got us back into the game.”
Boston cranked up their defensive pressure after halftime, holding the Pelicans to 3-of-17 shooting from deep, forcing 8 turnovers and tallying 5 steals.
Trailing by as many as 17 points, the Celtics were on the verge of losing two in a row at home, and in ugly fashion, no less. Although these kind of games are not in the norm for Boston, seeing that level of response in the face of adversity is a promising sign for their title hopes.
JB: “Each and every night, teams got the Celtics circled on their schedule. It's an honor in that. But there's also a humility in that and a respect level in that, that we gotta come and put our best foot forward every single night.” pic.twitter.com/B2Pt987guH— Taylor Snow (@taylorcsnow) January 30, 2024
“It’s a full season, it’s a full body of work you have to account for night in and night out,” said Brown. “You’ve got guys that are not playing, you’ve got guys that are tired, mentally fatigued, all different types of stuff going on in people’s lives. Every night we try to come out and put our best foot forward. It’s part of my responsibility to make sure our guys are ready to go, regardless of any of the other outside things.”
“We don’t really make any excuses, but it’s tough,” Brown continued. “You’ve got to come out and be the best version of yourself every single night, and that’s what the city demands, but that’s what we demand of ourselves as well.”
For both team and city, Boston has its eyes on a championship, and it’s that mutual goal that strongly binds the two together; it’s part of why the Celtics been so monstrously successful at TD Garden with a league-best home record of 21-2.
Considering the amount of hype and expectation for Boston this season, it can be so easy to get lost thinking of the end goal. Now is the time of the season where things slow down, games seem less meaningful, and the schedule feels more like a slog on the way to the postseason.
“It starts individually,” said Brown on pushing through midseason fatigue. “Just being able to get yourself ready to go. I could for sure feel it, but it’s all strength in mind and just coming out and trying to be the best version of yourself, regardless of how you personally feel. It’s just certain things that we can’t give up and that’s effort, defensive intensity, and playing the right way. I feel like as a unit, if we all make sure to bring that to the table, we’ll be able to pick each other up, even through those lulls. But it starts with stuff like that.”
Joe Mazzulla on the the Celtics' overcoming a 17-point deficit:— Noa Dalzell (@NoaDalzellNBA) January 30, 2024
"I just hope it happens 10, 12 more times so we can get rid of the entitlement that we're always supposed to be winning. I hope we have to blow leads, I hope all that happens. I really do."
(Via @CelticsCLNS) pic.twitter.com/Pbf8J25cyL
Being the best team in the NBA brings a lot of pressure, from both fans as well as other teams looking to topple the Celtics with any opportunity they get. Even with their talent alone, Boston doesn’t have the benefit of taking their opponents lightly, and it’s an approach that the team has taken to heart.
“You just gotta stay the course, each and every night,” said Brown. “Teams have got the Celtics circled on their schedule. It’s an honor in that, but there’s also a humility in that and a respect level in that we have to come with our best foot forward every single night. We can’t come lollygagging through the game and we’ve got to fight for that standard.”
“Some nights we’re gonna make shots, some nights we’re not, but if we have a standard for certain things, defensive intensity, rebounding the basketball, playing with effort, sharing the ball, we’ll find that we’ll be in most games or we’ll win most games. Those are the things I fight for as our standard...that standard needs to remain the same.”
Boston will welcome the Indiana Pacers tonight at TD Garden on the second night of a back-to-back with a 7:30 PM EST tipoff.