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Star-less C's embrace break, hope roster intact when they reconvene

Barry Chin/The Boston Globe/Getty Images

BOSTON -- With no teammates or close friends participating in this year's All-Star game, Boston Celtics guard Evan Turner plans to search for alternate viewing options on Sunday night.

"That Fifty Shades of Grey is coming out," said Turner. "I might go check that out."

While many of his players hoped to seek warmer climes -- or anywhere without the relentless snow that New England has endured -- with nearly a week off before the Celtics reconvene out west, coach Brad Stevens is headed to Cleveland for his sister-in-law's wedding.

"[Cleveland] is beautiful this time of year," quipped Stevens. "That will be the first leg of my west coast trip."

The Celtics soared into the All-Star break after rallying from an 18-point deficit to top the Eastern Conference-leading Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday night at TD Garden. Boston is now 7-5 over its last 12 games and players were openly daydreaming about the possibility of a playoff push and seeing these same Hawks in the first round of the postseason.

Stevens admitted he's a little leery about enduring a long layoff when his team is playing some of its most successful ball of the season. But Boston has endured a grind in recent weeks, playing 12 games over a 21-day span, seven of which were on the road and most on the opposite side of the country. This is a much-needed and welcomed break.

"I [told the players], ‘Don’t lose the momentum of what we’ve worked towards, but get off your feet and get some rest,'" said Stevens. "And I think that’s something that we all have to do. We have a lot of room to improve; this should give you good, a little bit of energy, when you come back to work. It’s always tough to leave on a break or any period of time, or even a five-day break, on a close loss. So a close win can make you feel a little bit better about traveling and getting back together and getting back on the plane and doing it all again come next Wednesday."

The Celtics will huddle in Sacramento for an evening practice next Wednesday, one day before a trade deadline that players hope will cause minimal change to a roster that's already been overhauled by nine trades since the start of the season.

Boston is playing some quality basketball lately and, even when it hasn't -- like shooting 32.3 percent overall on Wednesday night and spotting the Hawks an early double-digit lead -- these Celtics have found a way to grind out wins.

The Celtics had really struggled to close out close games over the past season and a half, but they've turned a corner recently. Boston started this season 5-11 in games that were within one possession in the final minute, but has gone 4-3 over the last 12 games with players like Turner routinely stepping up in clutch situations.

Now these Celtics want to build off that. There's good vibes in a star-less locker room and everyone seems curious just what this team is capable of with even more time together. Contenders might be interested in some of the team's veteran talent and Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge will have to weigh whether its better to collect more future assets or hang on to a player that might help his own team make a playoff push that could further help this young core learn now to win.

The general message in the Celtics locker room: Don't break up the band.

Boston players said they'll worry about how the roster looks when they get back to work in California. As Jared Sullinger bottom-line it, "It's All-Star break, [the trade deadline is] the last thing on our mind."

Added Stevens: "Obviously, none of us are blind to the fact that the trade deadline is eight days aways and you never know what’s going to happen. But certainly we’re hopeful that, from our standpoint, there’s minimal change as possible."

Stevens had been asked for a State of the Union on his Celtics before Wednesday's game and deadpanned, "We’ve had the same team for three weeks, so that’s been helpful."

Stevens later said that, while Boston had made strides recently, Wednesday's game would be the true litmus test considering what the Hawks, who will send four All-Stars to New York this weekend, had accomplished this season.

Boston found a way to beat those Hawks, a team it could see in the first-round of the playoffs if the team made an honest-to-goodness push over the final 31 games. The Celtics sit 1.5 games back of the final playoff berth at the break.

Maybe that encourages Ainge to only consider minor tweaks to the roster. There's still some logjams that could be aided by sending out a body or two, and the team is hopeful to get Kelly Olynyk back soon after the All-Star break, which will crowd the frontcourt a bit for a team that is leaning heavy on small ball recently.

There's a case to be made that Boston, with room under the luxury tax line and draft picks to offer, should consider being a buyer at the deadline. Ainge has deemed himself "opportunistic" and is positioned to pounce if there's a deal that can help his team now or into the future.

He also has the luxury of potentially staying idle and the Celtics seem OK with that possibility. But they'll let the GM and his staff sweat that over the next seven days. The players bounded out of the locker room on Wednesday night with energy both from an improbable win, but also because they've got a week off to bask in the afterglow.