Frustration was bubbling over in the Celtics locker room Monday after they blew a 19-point late third-quarter lead, got outscored 39-11 by the Bulls in the fourth quarter, and came from ahead to lose at home 128-114.
Marcus Smart was frustrated. The Celtics’ starting point guard plays a lot off the ball a lot while Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum have the ball in their hands as the shot creators. However, after this ugly loss and a fourth quarter where the “Jays” were 1-of-10 shooting, Smart said the young stars need to give up the ball more and get teammates involved.
— Celtics on NBC Sports Boston (@NBCSCeltics) November 2, 2021
“Every team knows we’re trying to go to Jayson and Jaylen. Every team is programmed and studied to stop Jayson and Jaylen. I think everybody’s scouting report is to make those guys pass the ball. They don’t want to pass the ball…
“That’s something that they’re going to learn. They’re still learning. We’re proud of the progress they’re making, but they’re going to have to make another step and find ways to create for themselves and others on this team to open up the court for them later down in the game… It’s something we’ve been asking them to do and they’re learning.”
Smart isn’t wrong, and it’s been the case for a couple of coaches now (Brad Stevens before and Ime Udoka). The Celtics have more creative sets they run through the first three quarters, but get into crunch time and they bring the ball up slowly, take time getting the matchup they want for Tatum or Brown, then run isolation plays. It’s slow and predictable, and in the NBA predictable is defendable.
Smart wants to be more involved, not just a floor-spacing shooter, and the Celtics need to consider it because they don’t have a lot of other options (especially Evan Fournier in New York now, and Gordon Hayward is in Charlotte). Smart is no Chris Paul, but he can get the team into an offense.
It’s all part of a Celtics team that’s out of sync. And if Tatum and Brown are the team leaders, they need to face the media after games like this (neither player came out for media availability).
Should Smart have made those comments publicly? Maybe not. Maybe they should have been saved for the locker room (and even a players-only meeting?). Maybe. But sometimes a team needs a little public kick in the behind.
The Celtics certainly need something.
The Celtics are off until Wednesday when they face a feisty Magic team that plays hard.