BOSTON — It was a bittersweet ending to 2013 for the Celtics, losing a 92-91 nail-biter to the Atlanta Hawks Tuesday afternoon.
Bittersweet has been the flavor of choice for the Celtics (13-18) this season.
They led Atlanta by as many as 18 on Tuesday, fell behind by as many as six and had one shot after fall short in the closing seconds in their desperate quest to squeak out a victory.
Far too many games have ended in similar fashion for this team, leaving a locker room full of disappointed and dejected players and coaches.
And yet through the down times, they seem to always find a glimmer of hope for better days down the road.
Tuesday was no exception.
Boston's starting five was, in a word, horrible. That's why most of them logged near-season lows in terms of minutes played.
And it came on a day when the second unit showed up in a big, big way.
Especially rookie Kelly Olynyk, who finished with 21 points and five assists, both career highs.
Boston got another strong game from Kris Humphries, who continues to make the most of his minutes, even as they increase.
He had a strong game for Boston off the bench as well, with 18 points and 10 rebounds.
Courtney Lee had it going for few minutes, finishing with 11 points on 5-for-7 shooting, not to mention having not one, but two impressive blocked shots.
Even rookie Phil Pressey was killin' it, tallying five assists in just 13 minutes of court time.
Go down the line and just about every reserve Stevens called upon, stepped up and contributed to the game having a down-to-the-wire finish as the Celtics' second unit outscored Atlanta's backups, 56-16.
Boston's bench was indeed the silver lining on Tuesday.
Throughout the season, that has been one of the recurring themes - pick out the positives, win or lose.
And it seems no matter how badly they lose, finding positives isn't all that difficult.
That's what makes this team, despite the losses, worth watching.
You may not know what to expect, but this is an entertaining group to watch.
One night, Jordan Crawford will look like Michael Jordan.
Jeff Green will dominate, disappear, and re-appear with a highlight-worthy dunk - sometimes in the same minute of play.
And while Celtics fans were certainly disappointed with the outcome on Tuesday, they really shouldn't be too down in the dumps.
After all, it's a new year where anything is possible with this group.
And that's pretty sweet for a team that's rebuilding.