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
- Isaiah Thomas: 'A bad call cost us the game . . . that's horrible'
- Jimmy Butler: 'He hit my elbow, I don't care what nobody says'
- Marcus Smart on foul call: 'I couldn't believe it'
- Brad Stevens: Tough loss won't derail us
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.