Stevens cool in clutch, so are Celtics

Stevens cool in clutch, so are Celtics
November 10, 2013, 12:30 am
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As Celtics players celebrated moments after Jeff Green's game-winning shot splashed through the nets at Miami, Celtics coach Brad Stevens wasn't the least bit phased by what amounts to the biggest win of his still-young NBA coaching career.

"They know how I'm wired," Stevens told reporters after the victory when asked about his reaction to the shot. "It's about what's next."

The calm, level-headed demeanor he exudes is starting to trickle down to his players, who on Saturday played with the kind of late-game poise you expect from a veteran team and not one that has been playing together just a couple of months.

Think about it.

Seven games into the season and the Celtics have led in the fourth quarter, every game.

After a 2-6 preseason record, few teams seemed more likely to be blown out on a regular basis than Boston.

Instead, they have managed to take the lead at some point in the fourth quarter of every game this season.

Who would have thought that at the start of the season?

Uh ... no one.

And yet that is the reality that this team lives in now.

Still, as the season progresses, that reality is shifting from them being a team that can compete to one that can close-out opponents, regardless of who the opponent is or where the game is played.

The game-winning shot by Green on Saturday will be replayed and replayed ad nauseum for weeks.

But the most telling image was Stevens' reaction, or rather non-reaction, after the shot went down.

And afterwards, his exchange with Green told you all you need to know.

"Good shot," Green recalled his coach telling him afterwards.

Good shot?

A fade-away 3-pointer from the corner with no time on the clock, with the pass coming from the other side of the court all while LeBron James is guarding you?

Green's winner was one of those you're-probably-never-gonna-make-a-shot-like-this-again plays that no one will forget anytime soon.

And while Stevens' low-key demeanor might seem a bit of head-scratcher considering the shot's degree of difficulty, the time it went down and the opponent, it does show why Danny Ainge and the Celtics feel so good about their future with Stevens leading the way.

He does not get rattled when times are rough, or too overjoyed when things are going his way.

And maybe most important to players is the fact that he is willing to make changes regardless of who might not like them, with making the team better his clear intent.

Take Gerald Wallace for example.

He was the team's best player in training camp, and has spent the bulk of his career as a starter.

Stevens decided to make him a reserve prior to the game against Utah on Wednesday.

Wallace wasn't exactly thrilled about it.

"I don't really know what to think," Wallace told Comcast SportsNet about the lineup change prior to the Jazz game. "Like I said, I don't know my role. I don't know what's going on. I just go; when they ask me to play, I'll play. We'll just go from there."

But Wallace was willing to give it a try and see how it worked, trusting that Stevens would do right by the team and him.

Not only did the Celtics get their first victory of the season that night, but Wallace came off the bench and had a near double-double with nine points and nine rebounds - one of his best games of the season.

Since then, he has embraced the sixth man role that he has with the team.

And as you go down the line, you see Kris Humphries plays sparingly but when he does get on the floor, he produces.

Phil Pressey doesn't put up huge numbers, but the Celtics have had some of their best stretches of basketball with him in the game.

These players not only believe in Stevens, but they trust him.

Trust is something that NBA players do not give to rookie coaches easily, let alone those coming from the college ranks.

Gaining that trust and now a few wins, bodes well for both Stevens and the Celtics moving forward.

And for Stevens, it has to put him on the early short list of potential Coach of the Year candidates.

But awards and accolades have never served as added motivation for him even as they piled up annually during his six seasons as the head coach at Butler.

Stevens, more than anything, is fueled by the challenge that awaits him.

He knows that those outside the Celtics locker room see them as a lottery team, or one that just might squeak into the playoffs.

But he has believed in this team's potential from the very beginning.

And while he won't come close to proclaiming that the Celtics will be in the playoffs this season or anything like that, it's clear that they are going to be a team that will compete all season long and give themselves a chance to win consistently.

Still, the last week has taught us all that being competitive is not enough to satisfy these players or their coach.

Like any other NBA team, they want to win.

And while they may not necessarily have the talent to do so on the same level as say, Miami, that doesn't matter.

They don't care about who the opponent is, or how much they are supposed to get beaten by.

They care about finding ways to win games.

And they have a coach in Stevens who cares just as deeply and passionately about that as they do ... even if he doesn't show it.