BOSTON -- Over the course of the season, the Celtics have made it abundantly clear that they don't believe in moral victories.
Despite a good effort against the best team in the NBA on Saturday night, a 102-97 loss to the Pacers still was no cause for celebration in the Celtics locker room.
"It didn't say half-'L' or half-win," Kris Humphries said. "It's just a loss. Losing is not good. Yeah we competed by we lost."
"We want to win every game," Rajon Rondo said. "It's not about [competing with] the best team in the East or the best team in the league. We try to win every game."
Leave it to the coach to be the one to find the silver lining. The upped intensity level being shown by the Celtics wasn't simply effort for effort's sake, Brad Stevens said afterward. It translated to good basketball.
"Tonight we looked like a different basketball team," said Stevens, comparing Saturday's loss to two previous losses to the Pacers earlier in the season.
"It was better. It was more fluid. We got better shots. Even the ones that were contested, we got pretty good looks. I don't know how many turnovers we had for the game -- I guess eight turnovers for the game. So I was pretty pleased with how we looked like basketball team. The part that makes it better for me is that at least there's some visual evidence of improvement."
It's not a win. But it's something. And when you've lost twice as many games as you've won (20-40), Stevens will take it.
Here's the Good, the Bad and the Ugly from the near-victory that leaves the Celtics 1-6 in their past seven.
Kris Humphries: Roy Hibbert presented Humphries what appeared to be a near impossible matchup in Indiana's half-court offense, but Humphries held his own, limiting Hibbert to 15 points and five rebounds in about 33 minutes. Humphries also ran the floor well and made mid-range jump shots when left open. His buzzer-beating tip-slam to end the third quarter was the loudest moment of the night at TD Garden. His reaction -- a primal scream to the rafters -- proved that he hadn't checked out even though the playoffs are all but out of the picture.
Boston's ability to defend off of screens: The Celtics were burned by pick-and-roll sets early, and when they needed a stop most they lost the best player on the NBA's best team -- Paul George -- on a screen and allowed him to knock down a back-breaking three. "The biggest play of the game was they ran a nice little action that they run for Paul George . . . and they just set a nice little cross-screen down-screen with good movement before that and he made a big shot."
Jared Sullinger's jump shot: After three games off, the big man had trouble finding his touch from the perimeter. He was 0-for-2 from beyond the arc, 4-for-12 from the field overall and air-balled one long-distance jumper.