Watch CBS News

Celtics Ready To Go To War vs. Cavaliers

BOSTON (CBS) -- The Celtics punched their ticket to the playoffs earlier this week, but the job wasn't done entering Tuesday night's game.

Head coach Brad Stevens was quick to congratulate his players for their postseason berth on Monday night, no small accomplishment given the team's ever-fluctuating roster throughout the early part of the season.

But Stevens also wanted to let them know they still had some unfinished business to attend to before their focus shifted to the playoffs.

That was clinching the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference, which the Celtics accomplished Tuesday night with an exciting 95-93 win over the Raptors at TD Garden

"We sent out a text last night and talked about it [on Tuesday] morning: We have an opportunity to compete. When you have an opportunity to compete, you compete as well as you possibly can," Stevens said following the win.

Tuesday night's game wasn't perfect by any stretch, with Boston trailing for the majority of the first three quarters, but was just the latest example of the team's grit and unwillingness to quit.

The Celtics crashed the boards, collecting 17 offensive rebounds in the win. They went on a 14-5 run to take a lead late in the third, and when the Raptors built a five-point lead with just a few minutes to go in the game, the Celtics again surged back to tie things up.

And with the score still knotted in the closing seconds, Celtics fans were once again treated to a Brad Stevens special, yet another after-timeout play that led to a Celtics victory.

This time, it was Jae Crowder, who hit an off-balance fall-away from the right wing with just 0.8 seconds left.

Boston has their regular season finale on Wednesday night in Milwaukee, but Crowder and the Celtics are ready for LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

"I'm ready to go to war with these guys," said Crowder, who finished the night with nine points off the bench. "I'm ready to go to war. Let the rest take care of itself. I think everybody in this locker room, each man, will be ready to go to war."

Boston knows things won't be easy against the 52-29 Cavs, not with LeBron, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love leading the way. But they aren't going to take this postseason opportunity lightly, not after all the hard work they put in to get this far.

"Hey, to have a chance to compete against the very best in the league is a great opportunity," said Stevens. "And, hey, it's a big mountain, but it is a great opportunity."

Newcomer Isaiah Thomas, who has led the Celtics to a 19-10 record since he was acquired from Phoenix at the trade deadline, is ready for his opportunity to shine in the playoffs.

"I think that's where all the great players make their name -- the playoffs," he said. "I'm excited about it. Just being a part of this team and being able to turn this season around and be a factor. People really know who we are. We're ready for that stage."

And just because they're facing the Cavaliers, who they went 2-2 against in the regular season, doesn't mean the Celtics will change their approach.

"We just play hard; that's half the battle," said Thomas. "If you play hard, you give yourself a chance to win. We play hard, we play together, and we like playing with each other. That's a good recipe for success. No matter who we play, we're just going to give it our all. Like I said before, I feel like we have nothing to lose. The lower seeds are usually counted out anyways. If we just give it our all, that gives us a chance to be in every game.

"We don't have the most talent. We're not the most talented team in the NBA. We have no superstars. But [playing hard is] just our motto," he continued. "If we don't play hard, we're not even close to half the team we are. We're not a good team if we're not playing hard, playing with each other, and having fun. We know that, and we know that's our recipe to success -- to try to outwork the other team and play as hard as we possibly can."

Usually, the 2 vs. 7 series isn't very competitive. Only one seven-seed has upset a two over the last 12 years -- the San Antonio Spurs over the Dallas Mavericks in 2010 -- and only three of the 24 series since 2003 have gone to seven games. Nine of those 24 series have ended after five games.

So the Celtics aren't going to get much love around the league, but don't be surprised if they put up a good fight throughout the series and steal a game or two.

They never quit during the regular season, so why would they start when the games matter most?

EMERGENCY COMPONENT - LOCAL

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.