NEW YORK — Celtics coach Brad Stevens used the Patriots’ Super Bowl victory over the Seahawks as a teachable moment for his team on Tuesday morning, before his team’s 108-97 victory over the Knicks at Madison Square Garden.
Stevens talked about how the game’s stars — quarterback Tom Brady, wide receiver Julian Edelman, and cornerback Malcolm Butler — had all once been overlooked.
“The three guys, right, that you talk about for the Patriots . . . one was maybe the greatest quarterback in the discussion of all-time, and he is what, a seventh-round or sixth-round draft pick?” Stevens said. “Edelman is a transfer wide receiver from [being] a quarterback in the [Mid-American Conference]. And the kid who got the interception, Butler, was an undrafted rookie out of West Alabama, a Division 2 school.
“It’s all about how you keep pursuing things. It’s all about how you’re going to make yourself better today, and continue to embrace that process of growth and improvement. I think that’s the best part of the story, right? Amazing game.”
Stevens said the stories of Brady, Edelman, and especially Butler are relevant to his young team. The Celtics have a collection of players who are eager to show that they, too, can exceed expectations and defy labels.
“You’re good if you play good, not what you are going into the game,” Stevens said. “And it’s amazing that sports and every game offer that opportunity, and I think that’s a cool thing. And certainly we talked about it, too, because we’ve got a lot of guys here that need to prove themselves and want to prove themselves.”
The Celtics arrived in New York on Sunday to beat Monday’s snowstorm, but they scheduled their trip for late in the night so they would not miss the Super Bowl. The players enjoyed the game, and they especially enjoyed the reactions of forward Gerald Wallace, a diehard Patriots fan.
“Man, it was crazy, man,” Marcus Thornton said. “Shirt off, yelling, screaming.”
Stevens said Wallace was “absolutely geeked” that the victory parade was pushed back to Wednesday, and he has asked for permission to attend.
Guard Phil Pressey appreciated the buzz the Patriots’ run created. He lived in the Boston area when the Red Sox won the 2004 World Series and said this has a similar feel.
“I don’t think we had school,” he said. “Well, we had school, but we really didn’t. It’s good for the city. It’s good for the people. It brings good spirits around Boston.”
Prince still sidelined
Veteran forward Tayshaun Prince missed his second consecutive game because of a strained hip flexor. Prince mostly just stretched during the Celtics’ morning shootaround, and he said he went through a vigorous warm-up on an exercise bike and an elliptical about two hours before tipoff.
“I felt great,” Prince said. “But the downside of that is, when I cooled off, everything locked right back up. Believe me, if I jumped on the treadmill and went straight to the court, I probably would have been all right. I went to go test it, I felt great, but when my body cooled down, it just locked up.”
Prince said that he might move his warm-up for Wednesday’s game against the Nuggets so it is closer to tipoff.
Rookie gets the call
Marcus Smart was sitting at his locker about an hour before Tuesday’s game when he was asked about his promotion into the starting lineup.
“Brad hasn’t told me yet,” Smart said to reporters. “So you guys broke the news.”
Although Smart was somewhat in the dark about Stevens’s decision, he was not fazed by it.
“It feels like every other day,” Smart said. “I’ve been playing a lot of minutes, so starting or not starting really doesn’t matter. I’ve been playing a lot in the second half and late in the game.”
The Celtics got off to a 14-2 start, with Smart draining a pair of 3-pointers. Smart ended up with 13 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 steals while playing 37 minutes.
Stevens minimized the importance of tinkering with the lineup.
“It’s not about rewarding one person,” he said. “It’s more about looking at the collective group and saying, ‘Can we get a little more rhythm with that group?’ Because it’s been pretty well-documented that we haven’t started great.”
Rookie James Young played 17 minutes against the Knicks — his second-highest total of the season— and registered 5 points, 3 rebounds, and 2 assists. He drained a 22-foot jumper with 10:15 left in the fourth quarter after the Knicks had cut a 15-point deficit to 6. Stevens called it one of the most important plays of the game. Earlier, Stevens said, “There are going to be ups and downs. He’s a 19-year-old kid. But I think he’s had a lot more ups than downs in the last couple months. A lot of them everybody else can’t see, but we’re seeing it day-to-day.” . . . Young was on the floor with Smart — his fellow first-round draft pick — for lengthy stretches. Stevens said it was intentional, but just on this night. “It has nothing to do with, like, future planning,” he said.
. . . This was just the second meeting between the Celtics and Knicks this season. When they faced each other Dec. 12, the Knicks snapped a 10-game losing streak with a 101-95 win. That Boston team included Rajon Rondo and Jeff Green . “Both teams are pretty different from that game,” Knicks coach Derek Fisher said. “I think the Celtics, they’re a good young team. They’re playing faster, they’re trying to attack early as much as they can.”