Blakely: Despite gut-wrenching loss, it's all good for Celtics

Blakely: Despite gut-wrenching loss, it's all good for Celtics

NEW ORLEANS -- There was an undeniable collection of emotions inside the Boston Celtics’ locker room following Thursday’s loss at Chicago, one that left the Celtics collectively sick to their stomachs.
 
Gut-wrenching defeats have that kind of effect.

CELTICS 104, BULLS 103

But win or lose, the Celtics have not been the kind of club to let outcomes marinate on their minds too long.
 
Unfortunately, they don’t have a choice this time, not with the next opportunity to play coming in a week.
 
But as frustrated and disappointed as they were with the Bulls loss, the Celtics are mindful of the big picture.
 
They hit the All-Star break with the second-best record in the Eastern Conference (37-20), winning 11 of their last 13 games.
 
And while Isaiah Thomas has been a one-man wrecking crew to opponents, as well as to longstanding Celtics scoring marks, we have seen the emergence of different players at different times stepping up in very different roles than we had seen previously.
 
It has made Boston one of the best storylines in the NBA this season outside of Golden State adding Kevin Durant.

Adding to the drama, the Celtics are a week away from the trade deadline. While nothing is imminent, Boston has lots of assets in the form of players and draft picks to get just about any deal done for any player that’s made available.
 
But Danny Ainge has made it clear he’s not willing to mortgage the future of the franchise on a player for 25 games, one who doesn’t make them appreciably better in the short or long term.
 
There are few players who can put Boston over the top in the East, let alone be made available through trade.
 
Ainge hasn’t ruled out having his team after the break look identical to the one we’ve seen thus far, and frankly, that’s not a bad thing.
 
Remember, Avery Bradley has missed almost one-third of the season dealing with an Achilles strain injury. His expected return right after the break will in some ways be like adding a new player in terms of getting him back up to speed where he’s executing at both ends of the floor the way he’s used to.
 
Jaylen Brown has been sidelined for a couple of games with a hip injury. He too will be back soon.
 
The team’s success with a relatively young core of players; Stevens’ plug-and-play system that has worked so well; Isaiah Thomas’ emergence; high draft picks in the coming years.
 
No matter how you look at it, the Celtics are a team that’s in good shape to not only compete with the elite teams in the East now, but potentially blaze a path that will keep them on the Eastern Conference short list for many years to come.

Highlights: Devin Booker puts up 70 points but Celtics get the win

Highlights: Devin Booker puts up 70 points but Celtics get the win

Highlights from the TD Garden as Devin Booker had a historic performance where he scored 70 points, but it wasn't enough to get the win over the Celtics.

Thomas on Suns: 'We’re worried about the playoffs; they’re worried about the lottery'

Thomas on Suns: 'We’re worried about the playoffs; they’re worried about the lottery'

BOSTON – Stacking wins on top of wins is the mindset of the Boston Celtics right now, so the players who did speak to the media following Friday’s 130-120 win over Phoenix drove that point home emphatically.

But inside the locker room, it was unusually quiet, the kind of silence you expect following a loss.

Considering how the Celtics’ defense was absolutely thrashed by Devin Booker’s franchise record 70 points, there’s no question at a minimum the Celtics’ pride overall was stung.

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And when Suns coach Earl Watson began calling time-outs and having his team commit fouls at the end of the game, there’s no question it rubbed a few Celtics the wrong way.

“I don’t think anybody has ever seen that; continuing to call time-outs, continuing to foul when we are up 15. But I mean, it was obvious what they were trying to do. They were trying to get him (Booker) the most points possible. Hat off to to him (Booker). He played a hell of a game.”

Following the game, Watson defended his late-game decision making.

“Calling time-outs at the end kept the game close,” he said. “It’s basketball; I’m not coming to any arena to be liked. If people don’t like us while we build … so what? Do something about it.”

The Suns (22-51) never came any closer than 10 points, which was the final score margin.

Al Horford acknowledged that there was some aggravation following the game.

“You can be frustrated when somebody is doing that to you,” he said. “It’s not to one guy, it’s to the team so I think we’re probably more aggravated at ourselves, at least personally I feel that way. I probably could have done a little better, maybe done some different things to prevent it. We got to give him credit, 70 points, I don’t care it’s 70, he got 70. It’s impressive.”

But there will be some inside the Celtics locker room and among their fan base, who were bothered by the Suns’ late-game actions which seemed more focused on Booker getting numbers than anything else.

When asked about being disrespected by the Suns’ late-game strategy, Thomas wanted no part of that conversation.

“It is what it is,” Thomas said. “We won the game. We’re worried about the playoffs; they’re worried about the lottery.”

 Boom!