BOSTON There have been many descriptions of this upcoming schedule for the Boston Celtics which includes five games in six nights, in five different cities.
Brutal. Challenging. Grueling.
Here's another one fun!
"I think it'll be fun," said Boston's Avery Bradley who says he's never played in a stretch of games like this. "We love the game of basketball. We're already getting ourselves mentally prepared for it."
The best way to do that is to simply win games in less-than-desirable scenarios, something the C's have been able to do during their current four game winning streak.
On Saturday, they went into Indiana and beat a Pacers team that's playing some of their best basketball now and are one of the teams Boston (34-24) is trying to catch up to and surpass in the Eastern Conference standings. The Celtics followed that victory with a blowout win at home the following night against a Philadelphia team that's right on their heels in the Atlantic Division.
As impressive as those two wins were, they pale in comparison to the Celtics' 115-107 win at Miami, a game in which the Heat delivered a slew of big blows to the Celtics all night, only for the Celtics to counter with a 1-2 punch of their own that was even more powerful. If the C's make the kind of deep playoff run they're hoping for, Tuesday's win over Miami might be viewed as the turning point in which Boston went from a team that was playing well, to one that has to be considered a legit contender to come out of the Eastern Conference.
With that kind of success, the C's appeared to be in good shape for a major letdown Wednesday night against the Atlanta Hawks. Boston was playing their fourth game in five nights, while the Hawks had not played in a game since Saturday.
There was no way to avoid mental fatigue becoming an issue for the Celtics. But to their credit, they managed to overcome it and for the most part, keep the game against the Hawks relatively close which afterward, Rivers said was the game plan coming in.
"We didn't play well," Rivers said. "I mean, we just kept hanging in there. You could see the fatigue."
Fatigue or not, Boston still managed to grind out an 88-86 overtime victory which was maybe the most impressive victory during this current winning streak when you consider the caliber of opponent, what was at stake (winning the head-to-head series) and the fact that Boston was coming off a hard-fought win at Miami just 24 hours earlier while the Hawks had not played since Saturday.
And now, the C's move on for road games at Toronto on Friday, New Jersey on Saturday and Charlotte on Sunday. After that, the C's face New York on Tuesday at Madison Square Garden and come home the following night to host the Orlando Magic.
Players are well aware that this upcoming stretch of games will go far in determining where they eventually wind up in terms of playoff seeding.
"Wish I could tell you what to expect, because I don't know," Rivers said. "I don't talk about it, don't mention it to our guys. We don't even talk about it with our staff."
With so many games congested together - not just this stretch, but this entire NBA season - it doesn't do much good to look too far down the road.
"We go one at a time," Rivers said. "That's the way you have to approach this season."