On March 5, the Celtics lost in Phoenix after the Suns improbably scored 5 points in the game’s final four seconds, including a buzzer-beating 3-pointer. It was the kind of dispiriting loss that could serve as the start of a downturn.
But after the Celtics lost to the Clippers the following night, they rebounded to snag one of their most impressive wins of this season at Golden State.
There will be missteps amid a long and winding 82-game NBA season, but the Celtics have mostly ensured that their bad days do not mushroom into something more concerning.
Their longest losing streak this year has been three games, and the schedule is light enough that it is unlikely they will face a longer one over the season’s final few weeks.
Celtics coach Brad Stevens said his team has maintained its consistency by focusing on each game as a standalone event. Big wins aren’t celebrated for long and bad losses do not linger.
“And hey, this team has done really well over the past few years at responding to adversity,” Stevens said before his team’s 130-120 home win Friday over the Suns. “Like, there hasn’t been very many times where I’ve been concerned with a losing spiral.
“I think that’s something that takes a lot of grit and a lot of toughness. It’s hard to keep a positive mind-set. But I think it helps if you just focus on what your job is, do it well, and trust that everybody will do theirs as well, too.”
Sick day for Bradley
Celtics guard Avery Bradley missed Friday’s game because of a stomach illness. According to a team spokesman, the illness is not believed to be serious, but Bradley was scheduled to be hospitalized overnight for precautionary reasons.
Bradley returned to the Celtics’ active roster Feb. 27 after missing 22 games with a strained Achilles’ tendon.
“Hopefully he’ll be home soon and can get some rest,” Stevens said. “[The illness] has been kind of going around, so hopefully it stops soon.”
Rookie Jaylen Brown started in Bradley’s place Friday and record 9 points and seven rebounds in 25 minutes.
Stevens has maintained a strong connection to Butler University since leaving the school to come to Boston nearly four years ago. So Friday night was a bit difficult for him, because as the Bulldogs were making their fifth NCAA Sweet 16 appearance, Stevens was coaching the Celtics.
The game between fourth-seeded Butler’ and No. 1 North Carolina in Memphis was scheduled to tip off at 7:09 p.m. The Celtics’ game, meanwhile, started at 7:40.
“It kills you to not watch it,” Stevens said.
What Stevens missed was North Carolina going by 16 at the half and advancing with a 92-80 victory.
The Stevens family was well represented in Memphis. Stevens’s wife, Tracy, is a member of Butler’s board of trustees. She traveled to Tennessee for the game with the couple’s son, Brady, as well as Celtics assistant coach Micah Shrewsberry’s sons, Braeden and Nick. Shrewsberry coached with Stevens at Butler from 2007-2011, which included the Bulldogs’ back-to-back appearances in the national title game (2010, 2011).
While Stevens and Shrewsberry were focused on defeating Phoenix on Friday, team video coordinator Alex Barlow, a former Butler point guard, was finding ways to keep an eye on the game. He planned to be in the locker room creating clips of the Celtics game while his girlfriend texted him Bulldogs updates.
Butler was a 7-point underdog, but that’s nothing new for this program that has thrived in an underdog role. The Bulldogs are part of a loaded South Regional that also includes UCLA and Kentucky.
“It’s a heck of a four teams, and any time I hear anybody talk about it, they only mention three,” Stevens said, smiling. “And I’ve been in that other locker room, and I know how they feel about that.”