Celtics' lack of consistency makes loss to Nuggets more than a bad night

Celtics' lack of consistency makes loss to Nuggets more than a bad night

No matter how talented an NBA team may be, they are going to experience some disappointing losses along the way.

But even in defeat, the better teams still play with a certain level of consistency that’s unmistakable regardless of the game’s outcome.

That’s why Boston’s 119-99 loss at Denver on Friday night was more than just a bad night for the Celtics.

It was yet another reminder of how, as talented they are collectively, the Celtics still don’t play with the consistency you would expect from a top-five NBA team (record-wise at least).

That’s why after the game, head coach Brad Stevens wasn’t overly concerned about his team getting smoked by 20 points, or the way they were tossed around like a rag doll for long stretches.

“My biggest concern right now was the fact that we were flat getting to loose balls,” Stevens said after the loss. "and giving up those uncontested lay-ups … they just got to the rim without anybody getting in front of them.”

The Celtics didn’t play with the kind of grit that a team playing the final game of a long road trip, needs in order to win.

Yes, the Nuggets have been playing better basketball of late and yes, they are a team that the Celtics do not match up well against.

But there’s no reasonable explanation for the Celtics to have been blown out like they were on Friday, a game in which Boston trailed wire-to-wire.

“Gotta give them credit,” Al Horford said following the loss. “We couldn’t keep up with their pace. They were doing a great job cutting, getting everything they wanted. We didn’t do as good a job defensively as we did the other night (at Golden State), all of us. I wasn’t there a lot of the times at the basket to contest as I should have been. We just need to be better.”

Isaiah Thomas echoed similar sentiments in describing yet another game in which Boston didn’t deliver the kind of consistent play needed to give themselves a chance to win on a night when they weren’t at the top of their game.

“It was just one of those games,” Thomas said. “We have to figure out how to be more consistent, each and every night. That’s not about me making a bunch of shots. That’s bringing it. When we bring it, we know what we’re capable of. Tonight, we didn’t for whatever reason.”

Thomas added, “if we can turn that switch and be consistent, we can be a really good team. That’s just bringing it every night, being what makes us really good – defending, being physical, getting loose balls – when you see the other team getting loose balls you know what type of game that is especially with the group we have here.”

The good news is that the Celtics are well aware that consistency is an area of weakness that they have to shore up in time for them to have the kind of postseason journey they believe they’re capable of having.

But Thomas believes all the talk about being more consistent is just that … talk.

“It’s way past talking about it,” he said. “We just have to do it. Tonight, we were a step slow on everything, that’s communication as well. When we’re like that we’re not good. For whatever reason these games keep happening every now and then. We have to fix that.”

Otherwise, games like Friday’s loss will litter the Celtics schedule between now and the playoffs.

“If we play bad, we get beat. It doesn’t matter who. That’s the way it goes,” Stevens said. “We have to play well to have a chance to win. Our margin is not what other team’s margin is. We can’t be inconsistent in that.”

NBC Sports Boston Breakfast Pod: Reserve-heavy Celtics keep at it, top Trail Blazers

NBC Sports Boston Photo

NBC Sports Boston Breakfast Pod: Reserve-heavy Celtics keep at it, top Trail Blazers

1:13 - The Celtics came away with a 105-100 win in Portland on Friday night. Find out why Chris Mannix is calling this the best Celtics win of the season.

6:05 - Mannix discusses details about Kyrie Irving’s ‘minimally invasive’ procedure on his knee and what his level of concern is with A. Sherrod Blakely and Gary Tanguay.

10:03 - Michael Holley and Tom Curran discuss what NFL players, including Devin McCourty, are doing beyond the gridiron by being active in criminal justice reform discussions held at Harvard this week.



Morris getting it done for Celtics on both ends of the floor

Morris getting it done for Celtics on both ends of the floor

When you think about Marcus Morris these days, big-time scoring immediately comes to mind. 

But in Boston’s 105-100 comeback win over Portland, Morris’ contributions went beyond the game-high 30 points he dropped on the Blazers.

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“Coach (Brad Stevens) is doing a great job of getting me the ball in my spots and my teammates are finding me,” Morris told reporters after the win. “And I’m just coming through.”

He’s providing strong play and a tremendous presence at both ends of the floor which has been critical to the team navigating some choppy waters with a number of regular rotation players – namely Kyrie Irving – out with injuries.

“One thing is, he’s healthy,” said Boston’s Al Horford, referring to the sore knee that limited Morris earlier this season and at times forced him to miss games. “And the other is, he’s just more confident, he’s playing very assertive. He’s playing great right now, in a really good rhythm.”

Said Stevens: “That’s been him (Morris). As he’s continued to feel better; I think physically he’s felt as good as he’s felt. He’s comfortable in our system and we need him to score. If you’re a basketball player and your job is to score, that’s a pretty good job.”

And it’s one that even with all the injuries Boston has played through, few envisioned him being such an integral part of the offense. 

Morris’ calling card prior to arriving in Boston was his defense. 

But Morris has made it known that his focus on the floor is to be as complete a player as possible.

“I’m not trying to just limit myself to just being that scorer,” Morris said. “Also, on the defensive end I think I’m bringing it; my defense has gotten a lot better, especially my on-the-ball defense. I’m trying to be that all-around player and not just an offensive player … but I can score.”