C’s Feel Battle-Tested After Winning Ugly in CHA

BOSTON – Winning basketball games in an ugly manner isn’t always ideal. However, in some cases doing so can be critical for a team that is about to enter the postseason grind.

The Boston Celtics pulled off one of their ugliest wins of the season Saturday night, as they blew a 19-point lead to the Charlotte Hornets, but managed to battle back and hang on for a 121-114 win at Spectrum Center.

Boston exploded out of the gate for 71 points on 62.8 percent shooting during the first half. It went into the break with a 17-point lead and looked like it was well on its way to a blowout win.

The Hornets, however, came out stinging during the second half and were able to snag a seven-point lead by the midway point of the fourth quarter.

Most teams wouldn’t be able to respond to a significant momentum swing like that, but the Celtics weren’t shaken by the situation.

Brad Stevens took a timeout with 6:37 remaining in the fourth quarter which gave the players an opportunity to come together and refocus.

“When we were down seven, I wasn’t worried,” said Avery Bradley. “I looked at Isaiah (Thomas) and I was like, ‘We’ll come back if we make the right plays, get stops on the defensive end and stop fouling.’”

Boston emerged from the timeout and accomplished all of the above. It immediately went on a 9-0 run to regain the lead and reverse the momentum back in its favor. Bradley was the crunch-time hero as he canned three 3-pointers down the stretch, allowing the C’s to hang on for the win.

“We knew that we were going to come back and win the game,” said Bradley, who finished with 15 points, six rebounds and four assists. “I think Brad knew too. We just knew that we needed to play the right way.”

The team was disappointed that it squandered a huge lead, but winning in grind-it-out fashion came with a special sense of satisfaction.

“They put us in a corner,” said Stevens. “That’s hard when you’ve had the lead and they take it all the way up to seven. To come back and win it, it shows a lot of resolve.”

It’s a good sign for Boston to be able to battle through obstacles at this point in the season because it will likely face some similar scenarios once the postseason grind commences.

“One of the things we want to do is keep learning,” said Al Horford, who logged 16 points, seven assists and four rebounds. “We have to keep learning and make sure that we’re facing these things now so that when thePplayoffs come I think we’ll be able to handle them a little better.”

It was not ideal for the Celtics to blow their 19-point lead over the Hornets Saturday night, but the determination and camaraderie they displayed down the stretch allowed the players and coaches to leave Charlotte satisfied.

Winning ugly gave the C’s a unique boost of confidence that they wouldn’t have gotten if they had won in blowout fashion. It allowed them to test their ability to rise against adversity, and gave them a taste of the type of games they’ll likely be experiencing come playoff time.

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