Boston Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo was asked if there's anything he desires over the final five games of the 2013-14 season.
"Get some wins," he said before the team's practice on Tuesday.
Even after the Celtics moved within a game of the third worst record in basketball, Boston players and coaches still crave the sweet taste of victory after losing eight straight and 13 of their last 14 overall. Despite knowing it could be counterproductive to their draft lottery odds, the Celtics believe that finishing strong could build momentum heading into the offseason.
On Wednesday, the Celtics visit an Atlanta team clinging to the final playoff berth in the Eastern Conference (the Knicks have fallen two games back) and Rondo said the team would embrace the role of spoiler.
"We want to be that [spoiler] team. Hopefully we can mess up Atlanta’s record a little bit more [Wednesday] and knock those guys out of the playoffs," said Rondo. "Who knows? Every night, when I got out there, I try to compete and win. It’ll be a good game [Wednesday] and we’ll compete."
Echoed Jared Sullinger: "It’s beautiful, now you have a chance to spoil somebody’s playoff contention. We have to go into the game [against the Hawks], be smart, and we have to play hard. Atlanta plays hard basketball ... we gotta come into the game mentally ready to play a hard 48 minutes."
Celtics coach Brad Stevens downplayed the notion of spoiler ("I don’t get a lot out of that. I think it’s more about focusing on us," he said), but echoed a desire to play better and win close games.
"It's kinda like a broken record, I just want to execute better, I want to execute longer, I want to do tougher things more often, and do it for 48 minutes," said Stevens. "I think, at times, we’ve done close to that, but very rarely for 48 minutes. You’d like to see the details play themselves out as far as doing everything little thing right on every possession."
Added Stevens: "I’d like to see us feel better and build some momentum."
Fans who swallowed the bitter pill of a transition season decry the idea of trying to win games. They probably shouldn't worry. The Celtics have played hard much of the season, but the bounces have rarely gone their way and -- like most rebuilding teams -- they haven't been able to win close games. There's been little to suggest that things will change over the final five games.
But that won't stop these Celtics from trying to show some progress.
Asked what he'd like to accomplish over the last five games, Sullinger noted, "I’m always about team basketball, so at the end of the day, as long as we win, I’m fine with that."