Jan 17, 2012, 1:08 PM EDT
Focus on the next step and you will arrive at your destination.
No, it’s not one of Phil Jackson’s coaching mantras, it’s what the Celtics are doing in the wake of a five-game losing streak and a 4-8 record that has them looking up at the playoffs right now.
Focus on getting better and the wins will follow is basically what the Celtics told A. Sherrod Blakely of CSNNE.com this week.
“For us, we believe that we’re not that far away,” said Jermaine O’Neal, who had a season-high 12 points and 11 rebounds against the Thunder….
“There’s nothing positive about losing; that’s first,” Garnett said. “But in trying to make progress, you have to pull the pluses out of everything. We’re making progress.”
It is strange to have Garnett speak of moral victories, but he is right — the loss to Oklahoma City saw the Celtics play maybe their best overall game of the season. Their defense wasn’t great but it was better and held the high-scoring Thunder 4.3 points per 100 possessions under their season average. Rebounding and turnovers also have been issues, but again there has been improvement in recent games. There are legitimate questions about how good this team can be — it’s not winning a title as currently constructed — but it can be a lot better than it has played.
The rest of this week sees three beatable teams — Toronto, Phoenix and Washington. Games where the Celtics can get some wins and start crawling back up the standings. But in the end, the steps of improvement will bring the wins, it cannot happen any other way.