WALTHAM, Mass. -- Most NBA players and coaches feign ignorance when asked about playoff standings and whether they pay attention to the jockeying. Which is completely laughable considering that everyone around the NBA is obsessed with win-loss records and playoff possibilities.
So it was refreshing that Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens didn't come down with a case of standings amnesia when asked Saturday about whether he pays attention to where his team sits in the Eastern Conference.
In fact, Stevens took particular pride when it was relayed that some of his players had recently noted Boston's playoff potential.
"You’re competitive. You play this game. You grow up playing this game. [The playoffs are] a great thing for them to be talking about," said Stevens. "I think it’s awesome."
Buoyed by three wins in four games during their recent trek out west, the Celtics' playoff odds swelled and John Hollinger's computerized playoff odds had the team projected as the eighth seed in the East earlier this week.
Consecutive losses dropped Boston's odds from 44.5 percent to 29 percent entering Saturday's action, but the Celtics remain the last team out in the current projections. Boston was 2 ½ games back of Charlotte for the final spot before Saturday's games.
"I [pay attention to the standings] because they are up and around," said Stevens. "But, my biggest thing -- and I really felt this way yesterday at halftime [Friday] because I didn’t think we played well in the first half [against the Rockets] at all -- was I just gotta continue to keep my focus on playing well and playing as good of basketball as we can. I thought in the second half, a couple of our shots didn’t fall, but, man, we played pretty darn well. And so that was encouraging moving forward. But, we just can’t have halves like we had in the first half, because it’s not going to be a fun day for us when we do."
After Friday's game, veteran Brandon Bass was asked about whether he thinks about the playoffs and admitted he does because "that's the best part of the year." Added Bass: "The journey is awesome, but I think you go through the season to get to the playoffs."
Sitting 13 games under .500 with 37 games remaining in the season, Boston seems an unlikely playoff squad, but the dilapidated East has kept the Celtics in contention.
Boston plays a Miami team on Sunday that's nearby in the standings with the Heat currently 3 ½ games up on the Celtics while currently occupying the seventh seed. Stevens was asked if games against potential playoff squads mean more to Boston.
"All of them matter exactly the same," said Stevens. "I think that’s the bottom line, because we have little to no margin for error with the position we are in. I think every game matters exactly the same. And they only count as one, either way. But when you’re talking you’re inside 40 games and you’re behind, every single one of them matters. So there’s no more importance placed on one than another to us."