Sleepless Stevens ponders lineups

WALTHAM, Mass. -- Sleep did not come easy on Friday for Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens. After enduring loss No. 49, one that matched his total number of regular-season losses during six seasons at Butler University, Stevens kept waking up in the wee hours of Saturday morning and wondering what he could have done differently after the Celtics suffered a 105-103 loss in Toronto.

"These games, and [Friday] night’s game in particular, I woke up multiple times, let’s put it that way," said Stevens. "It's hard to go back to sleep, because you think about everything that you could have controlled and controlled better. Credit [the Raptors] for their two [late-game] offensive possessions, because they made big plays. And then I thought [Rajon] Rondo made a nice driving play and I thought he might be able to turn the corner on the next one, but they got the foul quickly and we didn’t get a good enough shot at the end.

"Those are the plays that don’t sit well with me. It’s about me. I could have been better in that situation."

The Celtics did a nice job generating a late tying basket by Rondo and left enough clock to ensure they'd get another offensive possession. But Amir Johnson followed a Kyle Lowry miss with a putback with 7.1 seconds to play that proved to be the winner. The Celtics got Rondo going toward the basket initially, but the Raptors gave their last remaining foul. Boston sputtered out of a side-out and Jared Sullinger's one-footed runner from the top of the arc slammed hard off the glass without a chance to fall.

While losses tend to roll right off most Celtics fans at this stage of the season, particularly those with a desire for as many ping-pong balls as possible in the draft lottery, Stevens said the defeats still gnaw at him.

"The stuff that keeps me up at night is the stuff that I can control," said Stevens. "Whether it’s helping to get more out of an individual, to coach better from a psychological standpoint, or to be better X's and O's standpoint, I’m just going to continue -- I’ve got to do better. So that’s what I’m going to hold myself to."

Stevens later admitted that the Celtics played better against Toronto on Friday than they did in the front half of the home-and-home on Wednesday in Boston.

"Didn’t help me sleep at all, but I do think that," deadpanned Stevens.

Avery Bradley said Stevens remains positive with his players, knowing that Boston continues to play hard despite its record.

"He has been positive and I feel like that’s good for the team that we are on, seeing as we have a lot of young guys," said Bradley. "You want to keep everybody positive and come into the gym and work hard every day. I feel like he’s done a great job of that."


Stevens said those late-game coaching decisions aren't the only thing that keeps him up. He's put a lot of thought lately into the team's rotation, including whether Boston should shuffle its starters given recent struggles, particularly on the defensive end. One of the difficulties there is that the second unit has been excellent and kept Boston in a lot of games and Stevens doesn't want to disrupt that chemistry.

"It’s an interesting thing to pose from the standpoint of, you make one change, and does that help both groups or does it really hurt one of the groups? Because right now we are getting a ton from that second group," said Stevens.

"I think about it every minute of every day," he later added, before running down how each of the team's frontcourt players has had their moments this season, including current starters Kris Humphries and Brandon Bass. Stevens even admitted he's pondered tweaks to the more established backcourt of Rondo, Avery Bradley, and Jeff Green, but suggested he'd still like to get a longer look at that trio given their lack of time together in recent seasons. Stevens did note that any potential starting lineup change is more likely to occur in the frontcourt over Boston's final 10 games.

"But again, it could go any number of different ways," said Stevens.


With another home-and-home looming, this time a back-to-back against the Chicago Bulls that opens Sunday at TD Garden, the Celtics went light on Saturday. The team watched film and engaged in a light walk-through in front of season-ticket holders at their practice facility in Waltham.