CHARLOTTE – Brad Stevens was more encouraged following Thursday night’s 123-116 loss to the Atlanta Hawks than he normally would be after a defeat.
Rather than dwell on the negatives, such as the slow start and the 16-point deficit his Celtics faced at halftime, he instead pointed out their admirable comeback effort during the second half.
Boston rallied and pulled within five points of the Hawks during the fourth quarter, before eventually falling in a seven-point defeat.
The team hopes that late-game momentum will carry over tonight when they tip off against the Charlotte Hornets.
“I want to build off that second half, specifically the fourth quarter,” Stevens said Saturday morning as the Celtics took the court for shootaround at Spectrum Center.
Boston hasn’t shown much energy during the first halves of the last couple of games, which why it’s currently riding a two-game losing streak.
The C’s scored 20 points during the first quarter of Wednesday’s loss to Cleveland, and then notched 24 points during Thursday’s opening frame in Atlanta.
Defensively, the Celtics broke down during the second quarter of both contests. They allowed 38 points during the second frame to Cleveland, and then gave up 39 second-quarter points to Atlanta.
The difference during the Hawks game was that Boston came out with a sense of purpose during the second half, and it nearly resulted in a win. The Celtics’ bench was particularly effective, led by Marcus Smart’s 18-point, seven-rebound, six-steal, four-assist effort.
“We came in at the half and we all talked to each other,” said Smart. “We didn’t like the way we were playing and we wanted to just come out and give everything we got.
“The way that we came out in the second half and the momentum that we picked up is something that we needed to show that that’s the team we are. That’s the Celtics that everybody knows, and that’s what we need to get back to.”
Boston will have a chance to do so tonight, as it takes on a Hornets team that is fighting for spot in the Playoffs.
In order for the Celtics to snap out of their funk, they’ll have to be much more aggressive out of the gate.
“We want to start the game off the right way,” said Jae Crowder. “We’ve dug ourselves a hole the past few games and we just gotta be the team to hit first.”
The Celtics know they can’t be digging early holes this late in the season, and Isaiah Thomas says the team needs to figure out how to stop the trend as it looks to build momentum heading into the Playoffs.
“Gotta get back to playing the brand of basketball we need to win games,” said the point guard. “I think if we give it our all – give effort and rebound – that puts us in the best position to win. We gotta do that tonight.”