Blakely: Celtics know bad loss to Pelicans can haunt them later in season

Blakely: Celtics know bad loss to Pelicans can haunt them later in season

At the end of last season, the Boston Celtics found themselves in a four-way tie for the third-best record in the Eastern Conference. 

Once the tie-breakers were complete, the Celtics dropped to the fifth-seed.

When that happened, November losses to Brooklyn and Orlando - two of the worst teams in the East last season - stood out as keeping them from starting the playoffs at home and in doing so, factored in their first round playoff exit. 

And if the Celtics find themselves in a tie with another team at the end of this season, you can bet more than a few fingers will point to Monday night’s 106-105 loss to the lowly New Orleans Pelicans as a bad loss. 

“It’s one we wanted to win; every game is one we want to win,” Boston’s Kelly Olynyk told reporters after the loss. “We know it’s gonna come back and haunt us later when you’re looking at records and standings and stuff. That means we have to take care of business from here on forward.”

Indeed, the Celtics (5-5) return to the floor on Wednesday against a Dallas Mavericks team that has struggled mightily this season, akin to the Pelicans. 

The problems on Monday were reminiscent to the issues that have plagued the Celtics for most of this season. 

They pride themselves on being a defensive-minded team, but far too often they don’t play with the kind of defensive disposition needed to win. 

It’s as if because they have been a good defensive team in the past and have most of the core guys from those teams still in the fold, they have this false sense of believing the hype, that they can turn it on defensively whenever they need to.

But as we have seen this season, that’s just not true. 

Boston made a slew of mistakes defensively down the stretch, none standing out more than Olynyk biting on a pump-fake from Tim Frazier which sent the former Maine Red Claws star to the free throw line with 2.5 seconds to play for what turned out to be the game-winning point. 

Isaiah Thomas had a game-high 37 points and afterwards, acknowledged he was frustrated with the way his team played. 

“We made a lot of mistakes early in the game that came back to haunt us,” Thomas said.

They allowed too many players for New Orleans to get too comfortable offensively, a cardinal sin for a team whose foundation has been rooted in strong play defensively. 

It wasn’t until the latter stages of the third quarter and a good chunk of the fourth did the Celtics start playing defense at a high level. 

“We’re not that good a team to wait that long,” Thomas said. 

Boston’s defensive problems seemed to affect their play offensively to the point where it seemed they were hoping Thomas’ offense would be enough to carry them to victory. 

“It can’t just be Isaiah,” said Avery Bradley who had his fifth double-double of the season with 19 points and 10 rebounds. “It has to be other guys out there making plays for each other and making shots.”

He’s right, of course. 

But the shot-making Bradley speaks of needs to be balanced with solid play defensively, something that was not on display with any kind of consistency on Monday. 

Usually when that happens, it results in a Celtics loss which is something they are experiencing a lot more of than expected this early in the season. 

And while they will certainly look at the struggles as something they can overcome in the 72 remaining regular season games, there’s a growing sense that these not-so-stellar losses to teams like New Orleans and Denver at home recently, will become factors in this team beginning their postseason journey from a starting point that’s less than ideal and with that, make it all that more challenging to have the kind of postseason success that the players and their fan base are dreaming of for this season. 

NBCSB Breakfast podcast: Maybe next year will be the Celtics' year

NBC Sports Boston Illustration

NBCSB Breakfast podcast: Maybe next year will be the Celtics' year

1:31 - With the results of Kyrie Irving’s second opinion on he knee looming, the Celtic’s season is certainly up in the air. A. Sherrod Blakely, Chris Mannix, Kyle Draper and Gary Tanguay debate how and if Kyrie should be used if he returns.

6:02 - Back in October Michael Felger prematurely said the Bruins season was over. The B’s marketing team featured Felger in an ad for playoff tickets now that the Bruins have clinched the playoffs. Felger, Trenni and Gary react to the commercial and discuss the Bruins playoff chances.

11:47 - The Patriots are making moves! on Tursday the Pats made deals with LaAdrian Waddle, Marquis Flowers and Patrick Chung. Phil Perry, Michael Holley, Troy Brown and Tom Curran discuss how despite these moves, the Patriots should still be in search of a left tackle.

Greg Monroe looking forward to his 2nd taste of playoffs

File Photo

Greg Monroe looking forward to his 2nd taste of playoffs

BOSTON – We live in a world filled with success stories that came about by accident. 

The invention of the microwave oven.

Post-It notes.

The creation of potato chips.

The Boston Celtics’ game-winning play against Oklahoma City earlier this week qualfies; a play in which there were multiple miscues made by the Celtics prior to Marcus Morris’ game-winning shot. 


All these Celtics injuries have made Brad Stevens a mad scientist of sorts with some unusual lineups that may be on display tonight against the guard-centric Portland Trail Blazers. 

In Boston’s 100-99 win over the Thunder on Tuesday, we saw Stevens utilize a lineup with Al Horford and Greg Monroe, in four different stints.

Monroe, who had 17 points off the bench - the most he has scored as a Celtic -  enjoyed playing with Horford.

“Al’s so smart. He’s seen it all in this league,” Monroe told NBC Sports Boston. “He’s an all-star. Very cerebral player, unselfish. So it’s easy playing with him. He can space, drive, make plays. I feel like I can make plays, driving. It’s fun playing with him. I look forward to getting out there with him more.”

Horford had similar praise for playing with Monroe.

“Coach (Brad Stevens) made a great move bringing Greg back in, in the fourth, playing us together,” Horford said. “He made some great plays, passing the ball and just … timely plays. It’s one of those things, the more we play with each other the more comfortable we’ll get. I thought it was very positive.”

Monroe’s role has become significantly more important with the season-ending injury (torn meniscus, left knee) to Daniel Theis. And his ability to play well with various lineups will only improve Boston’s chances of weathering this latest storm of injuries which comes on the eve of the playoffs. 

And while there’s a certain amount of pleasure all players take in being on a playoff-bound team, Monroe understands better than most NBA veterans just how special it is to be headed towards the postseason.

In his eighth season, this will only be Monroe’s second time participating in the playoffs. 

The first time? 

That was last year, with the Milwaukee Bucks. 

“This is what everybody plays for, I hope,” Monroe said. “This is what I play for, to get into the postseason, make a run. It’s the best situation. I’ve been through a lot in my career, this year. I’m grateful. I don’t take anything for granted. I’m going to do whatever I can to help the team.”

And he has done that lately.

Monroe comes into tonight’s game having scored in double figures each of the last four games, a season high for the 6-foot-11 center. 

Having spent most of his NBA career watching instead of participating in the playoffs, Monroe is out to prove that he can in fact be a significant contributor to a team that’s postseason-bound.

“For sure. You have to have a little chip, a little fire, at least in my eyes,” Monroe said. “I’ve never doubted myself. It’s about being between those lines and being the best player I can be. That’s what I’m focused on.”