Celtics

Celtics and Tatum have some bouncing back to do

Celtics and Tatum have some bouncing back to do

LOS ANGELES – As Jayson Tatum and I walked through the concourse area of the Staples Center following his four-point, 1-for-6 shooting night against the Los Angeles Lakers, the stoic 19-year-old’s demeanor was steady as always.

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He was minutes removed from arguably the worst game of his still-young NBA career. And yet he didn’t seem the least bit fazed about it, even joking about how the missed layup he had in the fourth quarter was one of the many plays that cemented the fact that this was not going to be his night.

“I was trying to fight through it,” he told NBC Sports Boston. “But ultimately that’s what it was.”

Handling setbacks have been among the strengths of this Celtics team all season.

It began on opening night when Gordon Hayward went down with a dislocated left ankle injury and it has continued in some form or another since then.

But the Celtics are now on a four-game losing skid, something that’s totally foreign to this team.

The reasons for how they got here vary.

But they all know the formula for how to get back on track comes down to one thing – playing better, longer.

“We have to come out and earn one,” Jaylen Brown told NBC Sports Boston. “We need that; because nobody is going to give it to us.”

Here are five takeaways from Boston’s 108-107 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers that extended the losing streak to four.

MORE BALANCED SCORING
Even with Kyrie Irving going off offensively, it’s hard to win games when a pair of starters tally less than five points combined. Aron Baynes was scoreless while missing all three of his shot attempts, and Jayson Tatum wasn’t much better with four points on 1-for-6 shooting.

MARCUS MORRIS
It’s unclear if he’ll play tonight in what will be the second leg of a back-to-back for the first time this season. But man, the Celtics could definitely use him. He continues to be the Celtics’ most consistent scoring threat off the bench, filling a huge void in the lineup. Against the Lakers, he had 13 points on 6-for-11 shooting to go with seven rebounds and a team-best plus/minus among reserves, of +4.

FREE THROWS
It’s one thing to have nights when you don’t get to the free throw line. But what’s happening with the Celtics is much bigger than that. Against the Lakers, Boston only took 10 free throws compared to Los Angeles’ 36. It has been 30 straight games, a franchise record, that Boston has failed to make 20 or more free throws - a major deciding factor in the outcome of the Lakers game.

THE 3-POINT SHOT
Boston loves to take 3-pointers, but they can sometimes get carried away with it which was the case on Tuesday night. For the game, Boston wound up taking 44 three-pointers (with 15 makes) while taking a total of 90 shots for the game. The Celtics are now 8-7 when they take 40 percent or more of their shots from 3-point range, compared to an impressive 26-7 mark when less than 40 percent of their shots are 3-point attempts.

MARCUS SMART
Aside from missing what would have been the game-winner, there was a lot to like about Marcus Smart’s play. He drew charges, contested shots, made hustle plays … did a lot of Marcus Smart-like things most of the game. For the game, he had 22 points on 7-for-13 shooting with four made 3’s. He also did a nice job of getting his teammates involved without forcing the action too much, evident by him tallying eight assists with just one turnover.

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After torching Celtics, Donovan Mitchell headed north of Boston

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File Photo

After torching Celtics, Donovan Mitchell headed north of Boston

First, Donovan Mitchell dropped 28 points on the Celtics as his Utah Jazz won their second game over Boston in as many weeks, holding them to a season-low point total in the process.

Then, the buregoning superstar swung up I-93 to North Andover to cheer on his sister, Jordan, in her girls' soccer contest Sunday morning with his alma mater Brewster Academy:

The Bobcats fell to MacDuffie (Mass.), 1-0, in the NEPSAC Class C championship on the campus of Brooks School.

Mitchell, a New York native, spent the final two years of his high school career on the Wolfeboro, N.H.-based Brewster campus, as famous for its scenic overlook of Lake Winnipesaukee as it is its incredible pipeline of basketball players to high-major college programs and the NBA. Over the last two decades the Bobcats' post-graduate team has featured numerous players who went on to the NBA, including Thomas Robinson, Mitch McGary, Will Barton, T.J. Warren, JaKarr Sampson and Jeff Adrien.

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What to like, not like about the Celtics' loss to the Utah Jazz

What to like, not like about the Celtics' loss to the Utah Jazz

BOSTON – The Boston Celtics were in catch-up mode during most of their Saturday night home loss to the Utah Jazz. It was a game that dropped Boston to 9-7 overall and raised some serious concerns about where this team is now and more important, its direction going forward.

“We have to build a tougher team mindset than we have,” Celtics head coach Brad Stevens said after Saturday’s loss. “I mean, we just don’t have that mindset yet that we need.”

While no one is panicking, there is a clear and undeniable heightened level of concern within the locker room.

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But with most defeats, there are a few silver linings to latch on to as well as areas in clear need of fixing.

So, about last night …

WHAT WE LIKED

BOARD IT UP: Rebounding continues to be a choose-your-own-adventure proposition for the Boston Celtics, showing signs of being dominant one night and dormant the next. Saturday night was one of the Celtics’ better nights when it came to rebounding the ball, winning the rebounding battle 51-45. It wasn’t like a late-game surge when the game was out of reach, either. Boston was either tied or led in rebounding after each quarter except the first. To do that against a Utah team that has been among the best rebounding clubs this season is a definite positive.

YABA, DABBA DO!: Guerschon Yabusele didn’t get on the floor until the game was out of reach, but Celtics fans – and the coaching staff – certainly had to like what they saw. In nine minutes, he had nine points and a couple rebounds as well as two steals. It was the kind of performance that, if we see Yabusele on the court more consistently in the coming days, we’ll come back to as being the jumping off point for his emergence as a contributor this season.

KYRIE IRVING: He didn’t torch the Utah Jazz like he did the Toronto Raptors on Friday night, scoring 20 points against the Jazz compared to 43 against the Raptors. But what Irving did that stood out was his shooting. He got his 20 points on 8-for-16 shooting, giving him a season-best three consecutive games in which he shot 50 percent or better from the field.

WHAT WE DIDN'T LIKE

COSTLY FREE THROWS: There’s a pretty long laundry list of things that did not go Boston’s way in Saturday’s loss, most of which the Celtics had control over. Of all those things, nothing stood out more than their struggles at the free throw line. For the game, Boston wound up shooting a season-low 55 percent from the line. That number would have been a lot worst if not for head coach Brad Stevens emptying the bench as the game seemingly got away from them in the latter stages of the third quarter and all of the fourth, which is when Boston’s reserves knocked down their free throws, which raised Boston’s free throw percentage to the above-.500 threshold.

LIVE AND DIE BY THE 3-BALL: Three-point shooting continues to be a feast or famine proposition for the Celtics this season. The Celtics connected on a season-low 15.2 percent (5-for-33) of their 3-pointers against the Jazz. Boston’s struggles weren’t just a starter or reserve-based issue, evident by Boston’s first unit connecting on just three of its 16 three-pointers taken, and the second unit (2-for-17) proving to be even worse.

IRVING ISLAND: For far too many stretches of play Saturday night, Irving looked very much like a man on an island surrounded by an ocean full of sharks donning Jazz jerseys. He scored 20 points on 8-for-16 shooting. And it’s not like Irving was not being a willing passer. He had a team-best 64 touches against the Jazz, passing the ball 45 times but only tallying just three assists in large part because teammates were missing open to lightly contested shots.

WHAT'S NEXT

Boston hits the road to face a 7-8 Charlotte team on Monday that has lost three of its last four games. The most recent loss was an overtime defeat to Philadelphia in which Kemba Walker scored a career-high 60 points. As we’ve seen repeatedly this season, opposing team’s best scorers have seemingly had a field day knocking down shots against the Celtics. And like Boston, the Hornets will also look to make their mark from long range as they come into Monday's game averaging 12.2 made 3’s per game which ranks 5th in the NBA.

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