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Turner doing best to keep Celtics afloat

NEW YORK -- Fresh off the second triple-double of his career -- both coming in the past month's span -- Boston Celtics swingman Evan Turner showed up to his postgame chat with reporters on Monday night wearing an impossible-to-miss gold grill over his bottom teeth.

Turner, who put up 19 points, 12 assists, and 10 rebounds over 40 minutes while leading Boston to a 110-91 triumph over the Brooklyn Nets, raved about Boston's response from a sluggish start and his teammates' ability to make him look good by knocking down shots before the conversation inevitably swung to his dental bling.

"Every now and then, I switch things up. I just gotta have fun," explained Turner. "I woke up feeling like it. … This originally started off every family [vacation], me and my brothers do something off the wall to make my grandma go crazy, whether it be like a mohawk or like a henna tattoo or something stupid. So this past vacation, we decided to get grills. We got the reaction we wanted from her."

And what reaction was that?

"She said, 'Oh my god. Oh lordy, they’re going to kill me,'" said Turner. "It started off as a joke and that’s it."

When you put up a stat line like Turner did, you can do just about whatever you want. After all, the entire Celtics team emerged from the Barclays Center feeling golden after a much-needed win over one of the teams nearby in the logjammed Eastern Conference standings.

We believe it was Mark Twain who said, "If you don't like the standings in the East, just wait a few minutes." The doom and gloom that enveloped the Celtics after Sunday's disheartening overtime loss to the Detroit Pistons was washed away with Monday's effort.

The Celtics, who had slipped to ninth place in the East and were on the outside looking in on the playoffs entering Monday's action, went to bed having shuffled back up to the eighth spot, thanks to losses by The Indiana Pacers and Charlotte Hornets.

Boston climbed thanks to a well-rounded effort highlighted by Turner's triple-double. Avery Bradley scored a team-high 20 points, while both Tyler Zeller and Kelly Olynyk added 18 points. The win snapped a three-game losing streak and helped rally Boston's spirits.

"We all react to what happened yesterday -- that's the nature of this league, right?" Celtics coach Brad Stevens said before Monday's game. "We won five in a row and all is roses. We went to Oklahoma City and San Antonio, lost two in a row, came back and lost a tough one at home to Detroit and we're in a rough patch. That's just the way it goes.

"You just manage it, play the next day, prepare the next day. You don't get too caught up in that stuff. Hey, we continue to have a tough stretch. … Every day is a challenge."

It seems impossible not to get caught up in the swells while riding the playoff-push wave. As the Celtics exited the visitor's locker room, there were whispers wondering how the Hornets had fared against Chicago. All of Boston's chief competition for the final playoff spot in the East is currently on a losing streak -- including the Milwaukee Bucks and Indiana, who have each lost six straight.

For at least the next 24 hours, Celtics fans will feel a lot more encouraged about the team's playoff chances. Boston got rookie Marcus Smart back from a one-game suspension on Monday, second-year big man Olynyk showed signs of breaking out of his recent offensive funk and the Celtics snagged a game they really needed on the road on the second night of a back-to-back (with Boston improving to an improbable 8-1 in the second game of back-to-backs since revitalizing its season with consecutive one-point wins on Jan. 22-23).

Maybe the most encouraging news of all came before the game when Stevens noted that Isaiah Thomas -- Boston's prized trade deadline acquisition who has been sidelined for the past eight games due to a badly bruised lower back -- could return to game action on Wednesday against the Miami Heat.

After all, that's the next big game for Boston -- and every successive tilt will draw that same title over the final 13 games of the regular season -- as Miami currently sits 1½ games up and owns the seventh seed. Milwaukee is three games up on Boston but with two head-to-head matchups remaining.

Boston plays Miami, Charlotte, and Indiana as part of a five-game-in-eight-nights span starting Wednesday that will go a long way toward determining this team's playoff fate. The Celtics would like to bottle some of this momentum from Monday's win.

And it starts with Turner, who has been particularly influential in helping Boston post a 5-3 record since Thomas was injured earlier this month against the Heat.

Turner is averaging 14.4 points on 51.6 percent shooting while adding 7.1 assists and 4.9 rebounds over 31.4 minutes per game in that eight-game span. The Celtics are plus-4.1 points per 100 possessions when he's on the court over those eight games, the team's offensive rating spiking 5.6 points when he's on the floor.

Yes, Turner will be allowed to wear whatever he wants if he puts up numbers like those.

The 26-year-old grabbed five rebounds in the final quarter to polish off the triple-double. He said he was unaware he was nearing the accomplishment until someone in the green-speckled stands tipped him off that he was close.

"I heard a guy in the crowd -- me and Tyler [Zeller] were talking -- and he said, 'Zeller, give Evan one more rebound. Don't touch the [expletive] ball.'"

Turner credited Zeller with helping to box out on the final board that sealed the triple-double. Asked to verify the tale, Zeller laughed and said he heard no such conversation with a fan but noted it wouldn't surprise him if it happened.

The idea that Turner would be spearheading Boston's playoff push seemed just as far-fetched at times this season. But here are the Celtics, making a push and perfectly content to have Turner showcasing his gold grill as long as he keeps putting up these glitzy numbers.