What the Celtics had to say after their emotional 14th straight win

Jaylen Brown Boston Celtics
Jaylen Brown and Steph Curry battle for a loose ball during the first quarter. –AP Photo/Michael Dwyer

The Boston Celtics extended their win streak to 14 games on Thursday night with a 92-88 comeback victory over the Golden State Warriors. While a victory over the defending NBA champions was certainly an accomplishment, the team was also dealing with  something bigger than basketball, which made the night all the more meaningful.

The night prior to the game, forward Jaylen Brown learned that his best friend had passed away in his hometown, Atlanta. The shaken 21-year-old was close to sitting out, but ultimately decided he wanted to be there for his teammates. Brown scored 22 points and had seven rebounds, as his teammates were there to support him every step of the way.

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Here’s what the Celtics had to say in the locker room following their big win:

Coach Brad Stevens

On being down 17 points: “It was one of those nights where it would have been easy to not continue to bring it on every possession defensively. I thought the first half— you know, I wrote on the board at halftime — we gave up a ton on transition, we gave up a ton on back-cuts, we had 10 turnovers, we shot 30 percent from the field, and we were down five.”

“So, if we slice some of those numbers in half, we’d have a good chance of winning the game — with the exception of the field goal percentage, that probably wouldn’t have been a good thing. But I think that ultimately our guys made just enough plays to win a game against a really good team. And I think we benefitted — they missed some shots, some open looks. But I do think we guarded them hard.

On Jaylen Brown’s performance: “Yeah, he was special tonight. He was really good. As Abby [Chin] said on TV right now, he played really inspired.”

On what’s impressed him most about Brown: “It’s been a tough 24 hours for him. As you all can imagine, very similar meetings and talking points that I had with Isaiah [Thomas] last year happened today. Didn’t know if he was going to play but made the decision to play, and I think like Isaiah, used it as a distraction.”

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“So I think he went out there and played, and he was just really really good. But he also, you know, as far as what’s impressive is just that he comes to work every day. And it’s regardless of how it went. He comes to work, and he works the right way.”

On holding the Warriors to a season-low 88 points: “Yeah, it’s interesting we’ve had some first quarters that have been over 25 points in the last few weeks. And then we’ve gotten better as the game’s gone on. I think sometimes you get a better feel for how the game is going.”

“With these guys, you can only talk about the need for urgency in transition and urgency off defending screens so much. You watch it on film so much, eventually you have to feel it in person and it’s real. And it kinda slaps you in the face how quickly they get the ball into their operating area. So maybe that was a part of it.”

“And then we were fortunate, again. I thought we made enough plays, but our offense was not very good, but I guess good enough.”

On Kyrie Irving: “Yeah, he was great attacking. It’s hard to attack any of those guys off the bounce. They’re all exceptional athletes with great length. I thought that we just kind of kept going, and he was able to get to the foul line and overcame otherwise a tough shooting night. But that’s what really, really good players do is they find a way when it’s on the line no matter the circumstances throughout the game.”

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On Kyrie Irving taking his mask off: “So the mask thing … I asked the trainer if he can officially play without that. And the response was, ‘Yes, it’s not recommended.’ So that would be a Kyrie question, not a Brad question.”

On getting Steph Curry and Klay Thompson in foul trouble: “Never talked about it once. Don’t want to try and claim like I know what I’m doing. But it was good.

On keeping Jayson Tatum in the game despite his shaky start: “I thought that as far as first halves go, it was probably a little bit unusual for him. But we talked about it at halftime as a staff and you remember the Cleveland game — the first game of the year — he struggled the first half, played great in the second. You know, hey, he’s really good. And he’s gonna be really good. Really good players have to play through some stuff. Again, like I said about Kyrie, on the nights you don’t have it, you gotta dig deep and find a way.”

On how deep of a test the game was and how encouraged they are by the victory: “I thought we got fortunate. You’re not going to have many nights where Curry goes 3-for-14, Klay goes 5-for-18. You better win on those nights because there aren’t going to many of them. Our guys are locked in and really trying. We can play some pretty ugly basketball at times, but I do think that we’re competing, which is really good.”

Jaylen Brown

On his first-quarter steal and subsequent dunk: “That was just me playing basketball. Just being active on defense, like that’s what I do, that’s where I hang my hat, so when I came in, I knew I was going to try and get under their skin. When they get comfortable is when they’re really good, so I was just going to try to go for steals when they’re not expecting it or be there when they’re not ready. And it turned out I got some steals, got some reflections, got some turnovers.”

On how he was able to stay so controlled throughout the game: “I think it’s all God. A couple hours before, I was talking to Brad, and I told Brad I didn’t think I was going to be able to do it. Like I couldn’t get my thoughts together, couldn’t gather myself, and then his [best friend’s] mom called me, gave me a whole new inspiration. And I kind of think that was the reason I was able to go out and play controlled and poised.”

On the team’s win: “It’s just a regular season game. We still got 60-plus games left to play, so we just got to take it one game at a time and try to keep winning. We got a 14-game win streak going down to Atlanta, then we got Miami and Dallas. I think now that we have a reputation, everybody’s coming for us.”

“So now, we have to play even harder, and I think we can do that. They wrote us off coming in, saying Golden State was going to beat us and do this, do that. We came out and played basketball. Even when we got down, it’s the make up of our team is just to stay in it. We’re resilient. We were sparked tonight and we got the win.”

Al Horford

On what spurred  19-0 run in the third quarter: “I really don’t know. I think just Jaylen’s shots were big for us. I think those really got us going, and then we got stops. It just felt like everything with turning our way.”

On beating the defending NBA champions: “It’s a good win. It’s a good win. Any time you win, you know, they’re a great team. We’ll take it. We didn’t play our best game, but we found a way. We kept fighting, we kept chipping. Our defense was great. It’s been solid all year, and tonight, that allowed us to stay in the game.”

On being down five at halftime: “We felt that we left a lot of points on the board out there. I mean, they were doing a good job, but we had some good looks, turnovers, misses and layups — a lot of little things like that. With all that, we were right there, so we stayed positive. We didn’t start the third that great. For whatever reason, we were a little sluggish. Then we got it going, and it felt great.”

Kyrie Irving

On the reasoning behind taking his mask off: “To see better.”

On whether he was just ‘sick of that thing’: “Yeah. It was just thinking a little bit of my vision away and going against a team like that — that’s just smothering you everywhere you’re going — it’s just like I kept seeing so many bodies in front of me, and I’m just trying to see the glass. Those guys were just doing a great job, Golden State, they were just trapping me off of every pick-and-roll, every pin down, so when I was coming off, I could only see what’s in front of me and then have to make quick decisions. It just wasn’t fluid. So I just took it off.”

On whether he was nervous about taking it off: “No, I knew what decision I was making. I knew the health risk I was taking, so it’s my life”

On giving the game ball to Jaylen Brown: “I knew from the start of the game. I gave him some great words that were given to me when I lost individuals in my life, but it’s never a good thing going through it. You do the best you can to console them, to encourage them, but at the end of the day, it’s about the strength within themselves, and he showed a lot of that tonight.”

“To be able to go there and perform the way he did, I knew exactly who the game ball was going to. I told him, ‘The physical presence that you lost, that was just physical. At the end of the day, your best friend was still carrying it with you, so don’t you ever forget that.’ And he showed it tonight. He’s playing not only for the Boston Celtics but he’s playing for his best friend. You got to commend him for doing that. I’m nothing short of proud of him.”

On what it takes to beat the Warriors: “It’s tough. But at the end of the day, we understand that some of the mistakes that we were making were on our end. We corrected them and cut down on some of the mistakes that we were making on the defensive end and really just started being communicative and understanding that we have a chance to be in this if we take it possession by possession.”

“Make them miss a few shots and then get out in transition. They do an unbelievable job in pushing at you, so when you push back at them, it becomes a different game. It was a track meet out there. I don’t know if you guys saw. It was a track meet. So guys are huffing and puffing, by the time you get to the four possessions, it just depended on which team was going to have enough legs to make that next shot. Jaylen made unbelievably timely baskets.”

On the go-ahead drive: “Just being aggressive. Brad drew up the play. I got it out on the top of the key, just drove, trying to be aggressive. Fortunately, we got the foul called. Made those two big free throws. Then we got a big stop. KD misses a makeable shot. I know he’s probably pissed that he missed that. It’s a good look. It hit the front rim and bounced off and went our way.”

On having Gordon Hayward on the bench: “It’s unbelievable. I got a few more years with that guy, so I’m excited about it. Just being behind the bench, his knowledge of the game, you can tell he’s missing it, and we’re missing him out there. For us, we’re just staying strong, and I know he’s staying strong, but it’s good for him to be at the game and understand his support goes a long way.”

Jayson Tatum

On the comeback win: “The things that we’ve been through in such a short season so far, we always fight to the end. And tonight was another example”

On the team’s slow start: “I mean, it’s a long game. We didn’t play well in the first half, we were still only down like seven or eight, so we just had a boost of confidence and knew that the outcome of the game was completely open.”

On how proud he was of Jaylen Brown: “Extremely proud. He’s a tremendous player and person. What he had to overcome was tough, but you know, basketball is a good distraction. He came out there, and he gave us exactly what we needed today.”

“Everybody knew, so we were focused on it. But he didn’t want us to talk about it. He wanted to focus on the game, kind of get our minds off it. We’re all on the same team. We’ve been through a lot. We’re there for each other. Unfortunately things like that happen. We’re always going to be there for each other.”

On whether he was intimidated by the Warriors: “It’s fun playing against the defending champs. Incredible atmosphere. Everybody was looking forward to this game. I had a lot of fun out there.”

On matching up with Kevin Durant: “It was tough. He’s taller than 6’9″. That’s what I was thinking.”

On what the win does for team confidence: “To come back like we did and overcome what we did today and just get another one under our belt, obviously this one was against the defending champs. It just adds an extra little boost to it. But a win is a win. We’ll take that any day.”