WALTHAM, Mass. -- The Celtics won’t be getting a chance to play in the postseason this year, but a quirk in the team’s schedule will provide the Celtics a taste of what a playoff series might feel like.
First, Boston will face the Atlantic Division-leading Toronto Raptors in consecutive games on Wednesday and Friday. Those games will be followed by another home-and-home matchup with the Chicago Bulls starting Sunday night.
Brad Stevens reflected on this unusual section of the Celtics schedule at Tuesday’s practice.
“Pretty unique,” Stevens said of the back-to-back matchups. “But hopefully we’re to the point sooner rather than later that we’re playing a lot of them that really matter. I think it will be a good thing for our team to have to play against a team, learn through film, learn through walkthrough and then have to go out and play against them again. Two very good teams playing at a very good level, obviously as the 3 and the 4 seeds in the East right now.”
Rajon Rondo echoed Stevens’ thoughts about the benefits of back-to-back games against the same opponent and the opportunity they provide in giving Boston’s young roster a glimpse of the challenges they may face in a playoff series down the road.
“You kind of take it like a playoff game,” Rondo said. “If you play a game once, obviously there isn’t much you can change within a couple days. You just try to do a better job of executing your offensive and defensive schemes. We’ll play Toronto, then we’ll have one day to rest and then go back at it again on the road.”
With the Raptors and Bulls in the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff race, Jared Sullinger knows that both teams will provide a formidable test to the Celtics. It will also give the team a chance to play spoiler, a role Sullinger hasn’t had the chance to experience for the majority of his career.
“I was always on the tail end of that, being a guy that they want to beat,” Sullinger explained. “Being on the underdog side is definitely something I like. We got two games coming up with Toronto, back-to-back. We got to get a couple wins.”
Ultimately, Boston’s performance will come down to execution, and that’s something that Stevens hopes his team can carry over from the last time they faced the Raptors. The Celtics won that game, 88-83, back on Jan. 15.
“It still goes back,” Stevens continued, “And it always does -- it goes back to how well you do your stuff versus how well they do their stuff and who makes plays when those plays present themselves. We played well against Toronto last time we played them here. And hopefully we build off of that and play well again.”
Sullinger still fueled by tourney critics
After watching top prospects like Jabari Parker and Andrew Wiggins face criticism after coming up short in the NCAA Tournament last weekend, Sullinger was reminded of the doubts he faced after finishing his college career on a sour note at Ohio State.
The big man went 5-of-19 from the field against Kansas in a Final Four matchup in the 2012 NCAA Tournament, which gave detractors at the time plenty of reason to question his play. Sullinger still keeps a reminder of those comments nearby at all times.
“On the back of my phone is when Chad Ford was on "First Take" and Stephen A. Smith said, ‘I don’t know if he’s a first-rounder yet. I might not even draft him,’ ” Sullinger explained. “It kind of reminds me why I’m out here, and what I need to do.”
Sullinger continued: “It kind of puts fuel in the fire. I remember two years ago when everyone said I couldn’t play in the NBA, I was too small, I wouldn’t be able to score, all that stuff. I look at those guys and kind of laugh, but I still have to prove people wrong.”
The second-year forward also doesn’t put much stock into the disappointing performances by Parker and Wiggins over the weekend as a knock on their NBA potential.
“Honestly, there are going to be times when you have bad games, you know? Those guys are only 18 or 19 years old. They got to understand that they have a bull's eye on their back when everyone wants to attack that. Everybody is trying to make a name off of you, but I think those guys will be fine though.”
Stevens supports McCarty’s interest in BC job
After a Boston Herald report surfaced Monday that Celtics assistant Walter McCarty had interest in the vacant Boston College head coach position, Stevens gave an endorsement of McCarty pursuing the gig.
“I think our staff is great,” Stevens said. “Those guys, should they decide they want to do something like that, they’d all do a great job and Walter would certainly do a great job. That said, I don’t know the ins and outs of that, so I don’t feel like it’s right for me to comment on that.”
McCarty spent three years as an assistant coach under Rick Pitino at Louisville starting in 2007 after retiring from the NBA as a player. McCarty later moved into the NBA coaching ranks with the Pacers in 2010 as an assistant coach, and was hired by Stevens last summer to join his staff in Boston.
Boston College fired their head coach Steve Donahue last week.