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Thursday, 14 April 2016 04:40

Boston Celtics' otherworldly comeback against Miami Heat sets up playoff showdown in Atlanta vs Hawks

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The Boston Celtics pulled off an NBA-season high 26-point stunning comeback as their 40-10 run in the second half buried the Heat, yet clinched the 3 seed for Miami. The Celtics won 98-88 and will see the Atlanta Hawks in the first round.

BOSTON - The Celtics went back to the locker room after a Jae Crowder layup cut the Heat's halftime lead to 24. Crowder immediately responded out of the half with a three.

When Joe Johnson answered back with one of his own, it looked like the Celtics were in for a long, submissive end to their regular season.

Johnson would score the Heat's next basket, eight minutes later. It ended the Celtics 20-0 run, but couldn't stop the incoming tide. The Celtics run peaked at 40-10 before the Heat woke up and battled to the end 98-88 Boston victory.

The Celtics outscored the Heat 25-5 in the third quarter, which was the second time this season in the NBA that a team beat their opponent by at least 20 points in a quarter while holding them to 5 points or less.

"Oh wow. Second time in the NBA? That's impressive. That's impressive," Crowder told CLNS Radio upon the news.

On the night that the team gathered legends like Bill Russell, Bill Walton, Kevin McHale and more to honor the '66, '76 and '86, Stevens couldn't believe the team's effort in the first half.

"We were all embarrassed by the start," Stevens said. "We respect them more than anyone could."

So when Stevens brought the team back into the locker room, they had a frank conversation about how the next half, and really the next month would look.

"I didn't say anything otherworldly," he said. "We just sat there and talked in this tenor and said who do you want to be. There's guys in this building that hung banners.

"Who do you want to be? How do you want to look at yourselves? This was a collective thing. It had nothing to do with me. This had to do with who these guys have been all season. We got away from it on Monday and a little bit today."

The Celtics played came into the locker room fuming. With tensions exploding, Stevens' calm presence set the team back on track.

"Brad came in cool, calm and collected, took a seat in the middle of the locker room and just explained to us a little scenario he had gone through," Crowder said. "He said this time, we need to make a choice: Come together or we won't. I think it definitely showed in the second half."

"Brad sat down in the chair and he talked real quiet," Isaiah Thomas said. "You could tell he was upset, but he was basically like, ‘Figure it out. You guys are playing real selfish, not just offensively, but the defensive scheme is real selfish.'

"Everybody is hugging their guy and we need to play as one and get ourselves together and get ourselves out of whatever funk we’re in basically, and we did that," Thomas continued. "We kept looking at each other telling ourselves we’re gonna win this game, we’re gonna make a comeback and just believe, and that’s the special thing about this team."

With the season in a tailspin and the Celtics enduring a thrashing at the hands of the team that could host their next game in the first round, they decided to face the music and toughen up.

"We were just like, we weren't feeling sorry for nobody," Jae Crowder said. "We can't feel sorry for nobody. They don't feel sorry for us.  Our fans don't feel sorry for us. We heard boos coming in. But we knew we just had to fight."

When asked if that was the best defensive performance he's seen, Jae Crowder said, "For sure.  From AAU, from here to elementary, that's amazing.  Five points in the third if I'm not mistaken. I've never heard of anything like that."

It was the thunderous stamp on a successful season that saw the Celtics establish themselves as one of the most innovative and dynamic teams in the league.

"We're just going to play as hard as we can," Avery Bradley said. "We have to be that hard-nosed grind team that plays hard every single possession.

"Jae Crowder said it best: Our team is one star," Bradley continued. "We all have to do our part and all have to bring it every single night regardless of anything that's going wrong. We still have to get it out of ourselves and worry about the team. That's the most important thing.:

For 2016 Red Auerbach Award winner Isaiah Thomas, leaving a strong mark on the house full of legends was worth every moment.

"I guess I'm up there on their level now," Thomas said. "I'm just playing..."

Celtics Taking the Midnight Chartered Plane to Georgia

After a domineering second half, the Celtics won the game that somehow knocks them down into the five seed with Atlanta on deck and Cleveland waiting in the second round.

"Obviously Atlanta is really good," Stevens said. "Atlanta has beaten us 3 out of 4 times and they give us some tough matchups. They're a really tough basketball team. We're looking forward to preparing for them."

Stevens has been ready to prep for three teams over the last few weeks. Now he can hone in on one target.

"I've got all three teams on my laptop and my laptop is about to explode," he said. "Now I can delete two of them."

Crowder was frustrated, as was the rest of the team, that such a huge win still landed them in the fifth seed.

"We did all that for that? That was my reaction. We laid it on the line like that, for nothing?

"We could have taken the L?" Crowder joked. "I'm being honest with you. That was crazy. But it was very encouraging moving forward to get back to where we played and get the win. I think it will help moving forward."

The Celtics await their date for the first game, but tentatively plan to fly out Friday afternoon. Fresh off a loss last weekend, they will be in for a battle with one of the four teams that finished 48-34 alongside Boston.

The team lucky enough to remain standing when the dust settles will likely be rewarded with a direct flight to Cleveland to enter the King's Castle.

Jared Weiss

Jared Weiss is the Celtics Locker Room Reporter and Host of The Garden Report: Celtics Post Game Show on Celtics Blog and CLNS Radio. J Weiss hosts The Block Party on Thursday nights at 8 PM and enjoys long walks on the beach while watching Rajon Rondo game footage. You can reach J Weiss at JWeiss@clnsradio.com and @CLNS_JaredWeiss.