Celtics can't cross 'fine line' of emotional play


Celtics can't cross 'fine line' of emotional play

WALTHAM - Anybody who's watched the Celtics this season knows that playing with emotion is not a problem for them.

From Isaiah Thomas to Jae Crowder to Marcus Smart and on down the line, this particular Celtics team thrives off an up-tempo, aggressive, and emotional style of basketball.

That's OK by Brad Stevens. He told reporters on Monday afternoon in regards to Smart's emotional style of play, specifically, that he'd rather his guys be more competitive than not.

Fans of Boston sports would definitely agree on that one.

But Stevens also said there's a fine line. He spoke with the media about an hour before the NBA announced it hit Smart with a $15,000 fine for an obscene gesture made in the third quarter of Boston's win over the Knicks on Friday. That obscene gesture? A crotch grab directed at one of the referees after he was called for an offensive foul.

Yup, that would have to qualify as crossing the fine line.

More often than not, though, Smart stays on the right side of it. That's when he's a big positive for the Celtics.

"Marcus is really a great competitor," Stevens said. "He get frustrated, but he’s a young player and those [technical fouls] are things that he can continue to learn from. And, again, I don’t think you can just flip the switch on a person that’s not as competitive. When you bring that energy and competitiveness every day, you’re going to have some moments where you’ve gotta reflect back and improve from it."

Smart didn't necessarily sound like he was reflecting on anything in particular on Monday, despite being hit with a technical foul in back-to-back games and picking up three personal fouls in a 5:34 span in Cleveland during the third quarter.

When Smart was hit with a technical in Cleveland, Thomas had a quick chat with him on the court. Whether or not it sticks remains to be seen.

"I mean, everybody that plays this game is going to feel [emotional]," Smart said. "That's why it takes five guys out there. Isaiah was just talking to me, and we just had a discussion. He was telling me what I already know and what everybody knows with the technical, you know, we didn't need it at the time. We were just talking how we can come back and capitalize on the next play."

Does Smart feel like he needs to change anything when it comes to his style of play, which at times can lead to frustrations with the officials? Not really, though it did sound like he understood that the refs can't be perfect out there.

"I don’t think it's nothing I have to change," Smart said. "Everybody's going to make mistakes, just not as a player but as officials, too. They’re humans just like us. So it's nothing personal between the players or the refs to us or vice versa. It's just everybody gets caught up in the moment of the game and stuff like that's going to happen."

Poise was a big topic after the Celtics' loss in Cleveland. They watched as their 18-point lead disappeared in the second quarter, and then let the Cavaliers pull ahead and pull away in the second half as they unraveled, partially due to officiating getting to them.

It was a lesson learned, as Boston can bet that emotions will only rise in the playoffs - and they'll have to be able to channel them in the right way.

“I think any time things are going against you that gets tested in a big way," Stevens said. "It’s not a secret that we are way better when we are making plays as a team and moving the basketball when you start looking at our assist numbers and correlating that to our success or lack thereof. And then it’s not a secret that we’ve got to do a much better job of keeping teams off the foul line in those games.

"You look at it and really it’s been a tale of two types of games in the last nine since the All-Star break. Those in which we’ve been pretty solid and kept the other teams off the foul line and those in which we haven’t. We’ve just got to do a better job of managing all that. I think that’s probably par for the course with a lot of teams. And you’re going up against the best of the best in the East, and it’s a good learning experience for us. I thought for our team at this time, these five games coming up are a great challenge at the right time.”

How fitting that it's the Grizzlies coming to town on Wednesday. The last time these two teams played earlier this season, Smart's frustration boiled over to the point where his overaggressive play on defense led to a late foul on Mario Chalmers that sent him to the line when the Celtics were looking for a defensive stop.

His teammates were clearly frustrated by it, and though Smart maintained he was just trying to make a play, he did apologize to his teammates after.

There should be plenty of opportunities for lines to be crossed on Wednesday, and it's on the Celtics not to cross them.

WATCH: Kyrie Irving shows off some vintage moves in All-Star Game

USA TODAY Sports Images

WATCH: Kyrie Irving shows off some vintage moves in All-Star Game

Kyre Irving flirted with a triple-double (13 points, 9 rebounds, 6 assists) as a starter for Team LeBron in Sunday night's All-Star Game in Charlotte, as LeBron's team came back to beat Team Giannis 178-164 to close out the weekend's festivities.

Irving, who was held out of the Celtics' last two games before the All-Star break with knee concerns, didn't appear to look too bothered as he glided up and down the Spectrum Center floor.

There was this crafty up-and-under on the Nuggets' Nikola Jokic:

And when Team LeBron pulled ahead late, Irving lobbed one up for his former Cavaliers teammate in an alley-oop that recalled finer days in Cleveland:

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Irving's game, right knee look strong in All-Star performance

Irving's game, right knee look strong in All-Star performance

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- NBA All-Star games aren't the best barometer as to how well or woeful a player may be health-wise, with the level of intensity lingering somewhere between a five-on-five practice and an exhibition game. 

But Kyrie Irving, who had not played in a game since injuring his right knee on Feb. 9, didn’t look any worse for wear in Team LeBron’s 178-164 win over Team Giannis in Sunday night’s All-Star game. 

Irving finished with a near double-double of 13 points and nine rebounds along with six assists in his sixth All-Star game and fourth as a starter. 

“It was good to get out and play the game I love,” Irving said. “This is always fun; really special for me. The point I am in my career, just appreciate it more.”


One of the game’s highlights involved the league honoring Dirk Nowitzki and Dwyane Wade with framed All-Star jerseys during a stoppage of play. 

“It’s emotional for those guys, I know,” Irving said. “To think they put that much work in every single day, dealt with the lifestyle, been very successful at what they did. They’re raising families now, they're about to leave the game. It’s crazy;  I’ll be there one day. I appreciate that.”

One of the main reasons Irving opted to play in the game was to give his well-rested body a chance to run up and down the floor against some of the best players in the world, even if they weren’t going to be running up and down the floor with the kind of focus and intensity you see in the regular season. 

But most important, getting a chance to get on the floor Sunday night can only help Irving pick up where he left off after missing two games with a right knee strain and a tough game on Thursday at Eastern Conference-leading Milwaukee. 

“I shot a basketball twice in the last eight days,” Irving said. “I missed it (playing basketball). I don’t ever want to take games off. But when it happens to do with my body, the investment that I put in it, I’m glad it’s at a high level.”

The Celtics (37-21) are currently fourth in the Eastern Conference, trailing the Milwaukee Bucks (43-14) by 6.5 games with 24 remaining for the best record in the East. 

Irving returns to the floor in what has been one of his best seasons ever.

He is averaging a team-leading 23.6 points along with 4.9 rebounds and 6.9 assists while shooting 49.8 percent from the field and 40.8 percent from 3-point range. 

Irving is the only player in the NBA this season averaging at least 23 points and six assists while shooting better than 40 percent from 3-point range. 

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