Celtics player-only meeting contributes to recent improved play

Celtics player-only meeting contributes to recent improved play

BOSTON – The Boston Celtics have been a different team lately, looking more and playing more like the squad so many pegged to be one of the best in the Eastern Conference.

Like so many of these kind of improvements, there was a turning point. 

For this group, that was the practice following a 118-93 blowout loss at Washington. 


The Celtics had a players-only meeting, an opportunity to clear the air and speak freely with one goal – to start playing Celtics basketball. 

Since then, they have won three of their last four games which includes Wednesday’s 90-83 victory over Dallas. 

Marcus Smart was among the Celtics players who felt the meeting was pivotal to this team at least starting to play at a higher compete level which has helped fuel their recent success. 

“We had to look ourselves in the mirror and come to the conclusion that it is us and we’re the ones playing and that we have to get it together,” Smart said. 

After ranking near the bottom of several defensive categories prior to the meeting, the Celtics have looked more like the squad that many projected – including players like Avery Bradley – would be among the top teams defensively in the NBA this season in their last four games. 

In that span, the Celtics defensive rating (points allowed per 100 possessions) is 93.3 which ranks second in the NBA. For the season, Boston’s defensive rating is 105.3 which ranks 24th in the league. 

Their opponent’s effective Field Goal Percentage has been pretty good all season, ranking 10th in the league at .490. But they have been even better in the last four games with an eFG% of .442 which is the NBA’s second-best mark. 

And rebounding, always an adventure with the Celtics, has been significantly better in the last four games where their rebounding percentage (.530) is the eighth-best mark in that span compared to their season rebounding percentage (.483) which ranks 24th in the NBA. 

The numbers are better in other categories as well, proof that the Celtics (6-5) are indeed trending in the right direction. 

And while there are certainly a number of factors that have contributed to their improved play, you can count the players-only meeting being one of them.

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.”