The Boston Celtics can finally breathe.
A February somehow darker for the Celtics than the worst winter month New England has to offer has given way to a much brighter March and a four-game winning streak.
Brad Steven put tremendous emphasis on these four games, challenging his team both privately and through the media to win and end this half of the season on a high note. The process-oriented Stevens recognized how loud the noise had gotten around his team, and only winning was going to turn it down.
“After the game in Atlanta, when you looked in everybody’s eyes, like, we talked about these next four games are important and you knew we were going to be ready,” Stevens said after beating the Toronto Raptors. “And I think that is a sign of a team that’s going to stay together. And I think it stems from, you know, our best players embraced that. I’ve heard Kemba say it multiple times this week: ‘Nobody’s going on break until we go on break.’ And I thought that that was really important. So you learn a lot about yourself in those moments.”
This season, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver is playing King Eurysteus as he puts NBA teams through Herculean labors to prove their worth. The Celtics hope there are fewer than 12, though it could be said that every day has been a labor unto itself. Entering the All-Star break, and doing so after a few wins, has given the Celtics a chance to exhale a bit and finally be a little open about what the first half of this season was like.
“It’s crazy,” 12-year veteran Jeff Teague said. "Not knowing when you were going to start playing, so not being able to really prepare your body for that. But also testing every single day, having to get up at weird times, some teams playing some games because of protocol, some guys are sitting out games. It’s just a whole different experience.”
Teams on road trips would routinely get into their team hotels late into the night and then need to wake up a few hours later for an early morning COVID-19 test. The grind of it all has tested players’ will.
“We knew it was going to be a challenge,” Jaylen Brown said. “The mental challenge of not being complacent. Sometimes when you separate from things, you're able to get that itch again. Not having an offseason, we didn't really have that chance. So we got it mentally as well. I think that we're in a good spot. We ended on a good note in the first half and I think we're ready to come out in the second.”
The second half will be