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Celtics notebook

For Brad Stevens, this is what perfect practice looks like

Celtics coach Brad Stevens sees extra shooting as the sign that players are invested in the team.File/Winslow Townson/Associated Press

The Celtics held a rare practice last Tuesday, and it was hard to tell exactly when the session ended. Isaiah Thomas hoisted 3-pointers on one rim while James Young worked on ball handling nearby. And at the other end of the court, a large group of players were involved in a shooting contest. Small moments like that resonate with coach Brad Stevens.

“One of my former bosses used to say the sign of a team that’s really invested is a team that stays to shoot afterwards, and I believe that,” Stevens said before his team beat the Knicks, 105-104, on Friday night at TD Garden. “When you stay and shoot and put your work in that’s a really good thing. When you’re invested in that, and not just going through the motions, that’s a very good sign.”


The unforgiving nature of an NBA schedule makes it difficult to squeeze in practice time. When there are days without travel or games, it can sometimes be just as valuable to rest as it is to get back on the court, particularly late in a season. Stevens said that beginning in January he typically scales back practice sessions to no more than 75 minutes.

“It’s about being as good as you can be with the time you have,” he said. “We’ve made a priority of rest. We haven’t shot around in the morning. We did it once all year here at home and otherwise we’ve come in at 4. We want it to be where you have an accumulation of rest. Whether that’s right, wrong, I don’t know. But fresh legs are important.”

The Celtics on Friday secured their 13th consecutive home win, tying the longest streak since 2008-09.

Numbers game

Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge has made no secret of his desire to add star power to develop a championship contender. Amid this quest, though, the current team is slowly climbing the ladder toward the league’s ruling class.


Although Ainge has said that the roster as currently constructed is not built to win a title, he left the door slightly ajar in a recent interview.

“I believe the extraordinary is possible,” he said, referring to the team’s championship aspirations. “What’s really important is that they believe, and that’s what I love about these guys. I love that they believe they’re gonna win every night they go out on the court.”

Boston is 38-25 and in third place in the Eastern Conference. The Celtics were the darlings of many computer models at the start of this season, and so far they have mostly lived up to the hype.

But where do they stand now? Well, according to basketball-reference.com’s playoff probability simulator, they’re in a very good spot. The site uses 7,500 simulations of the remainder of the season to predict how it will all end.

Entering Friday’s game against the Knicks, the Celtics were projected to finish 49-33. Their ceiling is said to be 56 wins, and their floor 42. They are a virtual lock to make the playoffs, at 99.9 percent.

And in the postseason, there is some fuel for Ainge’s belief in the extraordinary. The Celtics are listed as having a 17.9 percent chance of winning the Eastern Conference. It is the third-best mark behind the Cavaliers (35.6 percent) and Raptors (21.3), and it dwarfs the fourth choice, the Hawks (6.8).


Although it has plenty to do with the fact that the Warriors and Spurs are in the Western Conference, the Celtics are listed as having a much better chance to reach the NBA Finals than the Thunder (5.7 percent) and the Clippers (3.4).

Finally, the site says that Boston actually has a 2.7 percent chance of winning a championship this season.

Wait their turn

With rookies Jordan Mickey, Terry Rozier, R.J. Hunter, and second-year wing James Young on the roster, the Celtics have taken advantage of their partnership with the D-League’s Maine Red Claws this season, shuffling all four to Portland for stints.

Hunter is currently with the team. But the Red Claws now have a crowded and healthy roster, recently adding Tim Frazier, who was waived by the Trail Blazers, and Marcus Thornton, the Celtics’ second-round pick who just came back to the United States after playing in Australia this winter. Stevens said the Celtics would be aware of the situation in Maine over the season’s final weeks.

“The one thing we’re trying to be cognizant of is that they’re healthy, they’ve got a ton of guys, they just added a couple guys,” he said. “We probably won’t be sending three up at a time like we’ve done before. But it could be as many as two, depending on the health of our team here.”

Adam Himmelsbach can be reached at adam.himmelsbach@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @adamhimmelsbach.