Highlights: Boston Celtics 89, Philadelphia 76ers 88

Highlights: Boston Celtics 89, Philadelphia 76ers 88

Highlights from the Boston Celtics 89-88 win over the Philadelphia 76ers, and A. Sherrod Blakely breaks down Jayson Tatum's debut.

Marcus Smart wants Celtics players to step up for Brad Stevens

Marcus Smart wants Celtics players to step up for Brad Stevens

BRIGHTON, Mass. — Brad Stevens continues to insist that he has to do a better job amid the Celtics' uneven start to the season but his players don’t believe their coach deserves much of the blame.

"Brad’s going to [take the blame] because Brad’s a great coach,” Marcus Smart told NBC Sports Boston. "Any great coach is going to see what he can do better — that’s what a leader does and Brad is the leader of this team. Everything he feels is going to fall on him. 

"At the same time, he’s not out there playing. We are. So at some point, as a team, we gotta step up and we gotta cover Brad’s ass just like he covers ours by putting us in the right positions. We gotta go out there and give him that sign of respect by bringing everything we’ve got every night and playing our ass off.”

After Boston’s uninspired 1-4 road trip, Stevens suggested that the Celtics were not a “well-coached” team. He doubled down on that assessment Tuesday’s at practice at the Auerbach Center, noting he needs to figure out how to get the most out of his talent.

"I think our accountability, across the board, just needs to be better. But that starts with me,” said Stevens. "I’ve got to do a better job, and I will.”

Stevens was asked what kind of signs suggest to him that he’s not doing a good job coaching at the moment.

"Just not playing the game the right way, consistently enough on both ends,” said Stevens. "And I'm shocked at our [league-best] defensive rating. I can't believe it. It doesn’t look like the best defense in the league to me but maybe that's a result of all the high scoring games early in the year.

"And then, offensively, when we're desperate and urgent, we're damn good. And when we're not, we’re — whew, we're bad. So we need to do a better job of making sure we play the right way all the way through, and I think, again, what I've spent the last 48 hours on is that's a coach's responsibility.”

Despite a roster brimming with talent, Stevens has the challenge this year of trying to figure out how all his puzzle pieces fit together, all while keeping peace among players that all desire as much floor time as possible. Toss in a minutes restriction as Gordon Hayward works his way back from last season’s ankle injury and it’s been a challenge to put those pieces where they might eventually be glued down.

On the surface, there’s been little to quibble with Stevens’ rotation decisions. He's deployed his five best players in the starting lineup and done his best to maximize time for top reserves Smart, Marcus Morris and Terry Rozier. Still, for every spurt of gorgeous basketball, the Celtics have had accompanying bursts of unsightly play.

Stevens certainly deserves some flak for not being able to get his players to operate at max intensity for 48 minutes but it’s also hard to fault him for all the open shots the team has missed or the way players have sometimes let their struggles snowball.

Still, Stevens knows it’s ultimately on him to get the most out of his team.

"I think one of the things that we all have to make sure that we do is remember how hard it is to win,” said Stevens. "And I think, as a coach, your job is making sure that everybody's accountable for all those controllables, and I would say that I need to be better. So, I would say that we all play a role in it, but that's my job. So we'll be better.”

Stevens was asked Tuesday if he had considered changes to his lineup and sounded hesitant to make wholesale alterations.

“Obviously, the easy question and the easy thought is always who starts and I think it's just as much rotations in the game that we need to be better with, and maybe find some groups that play a little bit better together,” said Stevens. "I thought actually in the Portland game we saw some of that in the second half. The hard part right now is, when we play really urgent and desperate, we're pretty good. We're just not there enough. 

"So, it's hard to really pin that on a lineup, on a person, as much as we just have to be better.”

And to Stevens, that starts with him.

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