BOSTON — For teams rebuilding the way the Boston Celtics are, improvement isn't always found in wins and losses.
But Friday night's 90-86 victory over the New York Knicks was indeed an example of growth for this franchise.
Boston (11-14) took control in the first half and seemed well on its way to another blowout win against New York (they beat the Knicks by 41 points last Sunday), only to lose momentum and the lead in the third quarter and fall behind by as many as 11 points in the fourth.
However, the Celtics' defense, sparked by Jeff Green's play on Carmelo Anthony, came alive in time, Avery Bradley began to hook up with an old friend - the corner 3-ball - and just like that, Boston was on the comeback trail, blazing a path towards a much-needed win that snapped a two-game losing skid as well as kept them atop the Atlantic Division standings.
"I wouldn't want to go through it again, but that's exactly what our team needed," said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. "We needed to have a lead, lose it, be backed up against the wall, and figure out a way to win."
It was the kind of game that the Celtics would have lost earlier in the season.
Boston had a lead in the fourth quarter in each of its first eight games, but managed to lose the first four.
The worst of the bunch was their home opener against Milwaukee, a game in which the Celtics led by as many as 22 points before ultimately losing 105-98.
Boston rookie Kelly Olynyk, returning to the lineup after missing the previous 10 games with a right ankle sprain, can add Friday's come-from-behind win to the long list of lessons learned this season.
"You just have to keep fighting and keep pushing through even if you hit a wall and hit adversity," said Olynyk who had four points and four rebounds off the bench. "You got to overcome that and come closer together, and I think we exhibited that today."