BOSTON - So the Celtics are a first-round exit for the second straight season.
And if you watched any of their losses, it comes down to the most basic of reasons just why that is: they couldn't score.
In a game they needed to win to keep their playoff hopes alive, the Celtics shot 36.2-percent shooting from the field. It was even worse at halftime, as they could only muster up 33 points on 27.7-percent shooting from the field.
It's no secret that the C's won many of their games by outworking the opponent. They scratch, claw, and out-want the opponent, as cliche as all of that sounds. But it's true. When it comes to sheer talent, this hasn't been a team near the top.
Tack on a few key injuries and that became very apparent against the Hawks.
But all of that can be fixed this offseason, as Boston has a ton of cap space, a ton of draft picks and assets, and a young team that appears to be one or two players away from getting to that upper echelon, especially in the East.
So it's time for Isaiah Thomas and Co. to get out the "Why Playing for the Boston Celtics is Great" handbook (By Danny Ainge, presumably) and start knocking on doors.
So, what's their pitch?
"Our fans are amazing. This city is a sports town," Thomas said. "I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. When you do get to experience what Boston Celtics basketball is like, it’s like no other organization. As long as we keep getting better, hopefully guys will start to choose Boston as a city they want to play in.
Jae Crowder, who shared the podium with Thomas, shared his same feelings too.
"I think the same thing. It speaks for itself. The fans, the city and what it’s about," Crowder said. "Tradition [is] there, everything is there. We’re winning. We’re a young group that loves to win and go out there each and every night. We let that take care of itself."
One of the many reasons this loss hurt so much for this particular group is because they really came together. Just about every player in the locker room mentioned the camaraderie amongst themselves, and how hard that can be for an entire locker room to have. But it was easy to see that translate on the court as they stuck together and fought back from many deficits. It was also refreshing to see a team of players who weren't shy to speak candidly about what they needed to see from one other on the court, and that was led by Thomas.
“This team, we’re a team," Marcus Smart said. "One thing for sure that we’re going to do is always fight every game. And I think everybody likes to play with guys that are going to fight and compete every game.”
So let's see . . . fans, check. City, check. Tradition, check. Accountability, check. Team unity, check. It sounds like the Celtics are ready to hit the recruiting trail.
But Brad Stevens, though not asked the same question, may have offered one more reason a big-name free agent would want to take his talents to Boston: the will to get better.
"I think that from a big-picture perspective I feel good about our progress," Stevens said. "We have great opportunities to move forward with our future flexibility. And I think that over time, though [Thursday] is sour and you have a sour feeling about it, this will make guys more encouraged to get in the gym. I mean, this is – for young guys, sour’s not all bad, right? Because it’s like me, I’m going to go home and watch what I can do different. I know that. And I hope that our guys feel the same way. They need to take some time off, but after that, let’s get better.”