The reaction was predictable. The Celtics are pleased with their postseason opportunity after a one-year hiatus, yet the focus remains on preparation.
Before they defeated the Raptors on Tuesday night, 95-93, they remained unsure of their playoff seeding or their first-round opponent. Now, they know they will be the No. 7 seed and face the No. 2-seeded Cleveland Cavaliers.
Before Tuesday’s game, the team took a brief moment too savor its accomplishment.
“I’m happy for the players, they’ve really played great the last 2½ months,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. “We’ve dug ourselves a hole and [are] happy to be where we are after starting the season the way we did. But it’s like I told those guys, this group that’s been together for 28 games have been pretty darn good in those 28 games. The goal is to continue to be crisp, continue to get our best reps in as we play beyond Wednesday.”
When asked why his team was able to endure so many trades and roster changes and go on a late-season run, Stevens said: “We haven’t been perfect by any means. We haven’t played as well defensively or offensively as we need to to continue to keep playing, that’s the challenge that’s ahead. I’m happy for them.
“They’re happy, but at the same time they know they have to play good basketball, and that’s what we’ve talked about all year. Hopefully we can finish out the regular season playing good basketball and get ready for the weekend.”
After defeating the Raptors, Stevens said he intended to give his players some rest during Wednesday’s regular-season finale against the Bucks. But he does not want to lose momentum entirely.
“We’ve really put a lot of emphasis on putting our foot on the gas and leaving it there,” Stevens said. “We had a lot of good moments and I’m hopeful to build off that.
“I’ve said for the past couple of weeks the biggest thing that I’ve tried to focus on is progress. We’ve made a lot of progress and our environment is excellent.”
The Celtics have exceeded expectations by making this playoff push, but it is no secret that they have bigger goals, and that this summer could be crucial.
Before Tuesday’s game, Celtics co-owners Wyc Grousbeck and Robert Epstein made it clear that the team is prepared to act.
“Well, we’ve got a lot of draft picks,” Grousbeck said. “Those could be traded. We’ve got a lot of room — over the next few years, we’ll have a lot of room under the salary cap. Our intention is always to be aggressive and opportunistic in the summer.
“We don’t want to let a summer go by. The summer of 2007 transformed this franchise, and you never know when the next one will happen.”
For a full transcript of the Globe’s conversation with Grousbeck and Epstein, visit bostonglobe.com.
A trip to Mexico
The Celtics will face the Sacramento Kings in a regular-season game in Mexico City on Dec. 3, the NBA announced on Tuesday.
It will be the league’s 22d game played in Mexico and the third in Mexico City. The festivities will also include NBA cares community programs and fan events.
“Fans all over the world know about Celtic pride,” Grousbeck said in a statement, “and we couldn’t be more proud that we’re adding to our legacy by bringing our game and our team to Mexico.”
Tickets will go on sale on April 24 and can be purchased at superboletos.com or by calling 1-800-BOLETOS.
In October, as part of the NBA Global Games initiative, the Hornets and Clippers will play two preseason games in China.
John Havlicek, who remains the Celtics’ all-time leading scorer, received a standing ovation after the first quarter as the team celebrated the 50th anniversary of his Eastern Division final-clinching steal against the Philadelphia 76ers in 1965. Legendary announcer Johnny Most made the play even more famous with his call of “Havlicek stole the ball!” The steal clinched a 110-109 victory over Philadelphia on April 15, 1965. Sam Jones scored 37 points and Havlicek added 26 . . . Celtics guard Avery Bradley left Tuesday’s game in the third quarter with a left quad contusion and did not return. He will not travel to Milwaukee, but the team expects him to be ready for Game 1 of the playoffs.
Adam Himmelsbach can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Gary Washburn can be reached at email@example.com.