WALTHAM, Mass. -- One philosophy that we've repeatedly heard from Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens is the simple notion of "do your job," a suggestion that, if a player focuses solely on the task at hand on a play-by-play level and ignores the noise around him, the desired result is more likely to be achieved on a more consistent basis.
The Celtics, back on the court Sunday for the first time since allowing the Cleveland Cavaliers to rally from a 19-point deficit to win on Friday night at TD Garden, blocked off a portion of their afternoon practice to focus on that "do your job" mentality.
"One of the things I really tried to emphasize today was, regardless of circumstance, we all have a job to do," Stevens said. "And the hardest thing is to focus on that job without emotion. Things are going really well, you've got to focus on the task without emotion. If things are going really poorly and it feels like the weight of the world is falling on your shoulders, focus on what your job is and do it well. That’s easier said than done, but that’s our emphasis as we move forward. It should be something that we’re doing anyway."
Like many young teams, the Celtics seem to get caught on the emotional roller coaster. When things are going well, the team finds energy in positive production and has used it to string together some of its best basketball of the season. Take Friday's game as an example as Boston erupted for 42 third-quarter points and carried a 17-point lead -- and all the momentum -- into the final frame.
But Boston came unglued when Cleveland's Kyrie Irving hit a series of 3-pointers early in the fourth quarter. Rather than move past the run and remain focused on the current possession, the Celtics seemed to become overwhelmed by what had happened as their lead dwindled. That contributed greatly to allowing the Cavaliers to rally all the way back.
It's human nature to ride those swings, but Stevens knows that the best teams in the league don't allow past performance to indicate future success.
Multiple times already this season the Celtics have allowed teams to make runs, particularly in the fourth quarter, and haven't always been able to steady themselves in the face of that adversity. Stevens implored his players to focus on their responsibilities on every individual possession and believes it will lead to more consistent results.
Boston's inability to do that last week might have cost the Celtics a couple of wins.
A few more notes from Sunday's practice:
• Stretching Smart: Rookie guard Marcus Smart, who is rehabbing from a severe ankle sprain, joined the team on the court for some light post-practice stretching. Smart was expected to miss three weeks after stepping on an opponent's foot earlier this month. "All that he’s doing is shooting stationary," Stevens said. "There is increased activity, as far as on the [Alter-G, non-weight-bearing] treadmill, so he’s not doing a whole lot. He is up on his feet and walking, the boot is off and all that stuff."
• VitorWatch: No progress: The rehab of Vitor Faverani remains stalled. Asked about any progress from the second-year center, Stevens offered, "No increased activity." What's next for Faverani? "Zero idea. I don’t know. I talked to him [Sunday]. They have not given him any specific timeline." Faverani is rehabbing from a second knee surgery aimed at alleviating lingering pain and swelling following the first operation in March.
• Passing Pierce: Rajon Rondo leapfrogged Paul Pierce Friday and is now fourth on the Celtics' all-time assist list. What does the honor mean to him? "It’s an honor to pass up a name like Paul Pierce, a guy who’s been in this organization for 15-plus years," Rondo said. "He’s done so many things, along with scoring the ball -- assists, steals, turnovers. Whatever the case may be, you pass up a guy like Paul Pierce, or come close to a guy like Larry Bird, who I think is next, that's definitely an honor. It’s been an honor to be in this organization for so long, nine years this year, so I'm just very fortunate and happy to be a Celtic." The 28-year-old Rondo said his accomplishments don't fully register at the moment. "It’ll probably hit me 15-20 years from now. Right now, we're just trying to get a win. That’s what it’s about."