Celtics

Celtics Talk Podcast: What is your level of confidence with this Celtics team?

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Celtics Talk Podcast: What is your level of confidence with this Celtics team?

Ahead of a strange five-day break in mid-December, the Boston Celtics are sitting at 17-7. But it's hard to figure out exactly how confident to be in this team.

On the one hand, the squad has certainly surpassed expectations to kick off the season. They have been dominant at the TD Garden and did have a 10-game home winning streak to start the campaign.

However, the C's just dropped two close games in a row to other Eastern Conference powers, the Philadelphia 76ers and the Indiana Pacers. Do those losses mean that the confidence in the Celtics that many were feeling to start the season should wane?

LIVE stream the Celtics all season and get the latest news and analysis on all of your teams from NBC Sports Boston by downloading the My Teams App.

On the latest episode of the Celtics Talk Podcast, Chris Forsberg, A. Sherrod Blakely, and Abby Chin all weighed in on how confident they currently are in the Celtics. And despite the team's mini losing streak, they all are still fairly confident in the squad.

Chin gave the team a 7-of-10 confidence rating. She cited the performance of the Celtics' bigs against the 76ers and the "flashes" the team has shown this season as the primary reasons for that.

I feel like the Celtics bigs, Daniel Theis and Enes Kanter, did a serviceable job against Joel Embiid and held their own on the offensive end, and that gave me a lot of confidence in this team. I think that there's no way you're going to get that kind of game from Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum on the same night maybe ever again in their careers in what they put up against the Sixers. And I still think we see flashes of what this team can be here and there which is why I'm excited about them.

Blakely was a bit more non-committal on a rating, and instead gave a range of somewhere between 7 to 8 with 8.5 being their ceiling.

I see two different teams. I see a team when they're complete and I see a team when they're incomplete. When they're incomplete, I'm with you, they're a 7. They were incomplete against Philly. When you have a healthy Marcus Smart and a relatively healthy, good-to-go health-wise team, they're an 8.

Blakely also called the Celtics "a good team" and said that if every team in the Eastern Conference was fully healthy, his top two teams would be the Milwaukee Bucks and the Celtics.

Hear Forsberg's confidence in the Celtics along with more analysis from Blakley and Chin on the latest episode of "The Celtics Talk Podcast," which drops every week on YouTube and as a part of the NBC Sports Boston podcast network.

BLAKELY: Could Marcus Morris be on the move from the Knicks?>>>

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Mavericks, which tips off Wednesday at 8:30 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live, and then Mike & Scal have the call at 9:30 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.

Struggles today setting stage for success later? Former Celtic Aron Baynes thinks so

Struggles today setting stage for success later? Former Celtic Aron Baynes thinks so

BOSTON — There’s no getting around the fact that the Boston Celtics (27-14) have come upon hard times, a team searching for solutions after dropping a 123-119 loss to Phoenix on Saturday, their sixth loss in the last eight games. 

Suns center Aron Baynes, who spent the previous two seasons playing for Boston, remembered stretches of bad play similar to this. They found themselves fighting off the urge to throw a pity party which is something that ails many teams in similar predicaments. 

LIVE stream the Celtics all season and get the latest news and analysis on all of your teams from NBC Sports Boston by downloading the My Teams App.

Last season, Boston lost seven of 10 in November only to bounce back and win nine of their next 10. They had another stretch later in the season in which they lost five of eight games and came back to win four in a row. 

Then in March, they lost four straight, only to close out the regular season winning six of their last eight. That set the tone for their first-round series sweep of the Indiana Pacers. 

Those tough times, Baynes recalls, became a necessary catalyst for future success. He predicts that will once again come to fruition for the Celtics, with head coach Brad Stevens playing a prominent role in that turn-around. 

“The best thing about it was, Brad really used it to get the team focused, get going, good runs after that,” Baynes said. “That was kind of, a number of those lulls turned into good stretches to finish out before the All-Star break and going into the playoffs.”

There was no mistaking Stevens' disappointment after Saturday's loss. His team once again came out slow and waited for the game to be too far out of hand before they began to play Celtics-like basketball.

The way Stevens sees it, the struggles of the moment are setting the table for success in the (near) future. 

“This will be a good stretch when we look back on it, because it’ll force improvement,” Stevens said. “It’ll force urgency on every detail. It’ll force the ‘do your job; for 48 minutes. And so that’s … these are never fun to go through. You know, it sucks, but these are usually what you look back on and say was a springboard for you.”

Baynes echoed similar sentiments.

“We had a couple of these things kind of spring-boarded us into good runs,” Baynes said. “I know they are going to do the same thing. They’ve shown over the course of the year. They’ll be able to get it going for sure.”

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Lakers, which begins Monday at 6 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live. You can also stream on the MyTeams App.

Celtics-Suns Takeaways: Smart was great. Rest of the Celtics? Not so much

Celtics-Suns Takeaways: Smart was great. Rest of the Celtics? Not so much

BOSTON -- Trailing 98-88 in the fourth quarter, Boston’s Jayson Tatum had the ball in hand, with a potential 1-on-1 opportunity to score at the rim. 

Before he got there, he had one last inside-out, dribble-drive move to make. He made it, but the ball took an unexpected hop, hit his shin and rolled out of bounds. 

It was that kind of night for the Boston Celtics whose struggles continue with Saturday’s 123-119 loss, their sixth in the last nine games. 

LIVE stream the Celtics all season and get the latest news and analysis on all of your teams from NBC Sports Boston by downloading the My Teams App.

There are many avenues to take that’ll lead you to why the Celtics (27-14) lost this one, for sure. But this loss, like most of the others, comes down to defense; specifically, the Celtics not playing very well at that end of the floor. 

And it isn’t just the perimeter players or the team’s bigs. It’s the entire squad, delivering about as much force as a feather all the while getting picked apart from the opening tip to the final horn. 

As we’ve seen so many times with the Celtics, they made a frantic rally in the closing minutes as Phoenix’s comfortable double-digit lead was down to just seven points (114-107) with 1:16 to play.

A pair of free throws and a dunk by Daniel Theis brought Boston within 114-111, only for a short fadeaway jumper in the lane from Mikal Bridges hung on the lip of the rim before falling. That increased the Suns' lead to 116-111 with 36.9 seconds to play. 

Coming out of a Celtics timeout, they called a lob pass to Gordon Hayward, who caught it cleanly and took an uncontested lay-up that rimmed out. A chorus of boos rang out immediately. 

It was a fitting last-second play for the Celtics. Once again, they did a lot of things that looked good and should have worked. But ultimately, they came up short yet again. 

‘D’ IN DEVIN BOOKER STANDS FOR DOMINATE

Booker puts up a ton of points, but the Celtics continue to be the one team he loves to torch more than others. And what we saw for most of Saturday night was consistent with what we usually see from Booker when he’s playing against Boston. 

Saturday was another big night for Booker in Boston. He led the Suns with a near triple-double of 39 points,10 rebounds and nine assists. 

Boston used a slew of different defenders at him but it didn’t matter. Booker is that good and the Celtics defense lately … isn’t. 

WALKER’S ABSENCE PAINFULLY OBVIOUS

Marcus Smart did his best Kemba Walker impression, making a slew of 3’s — and mostly doing so in a very efficient manner 

But in the end, as the Celtics failed to make the necessary plays at either end of the floor, Walker’s absence was painfully obvious.

As impressive as Boston’s knack for players stepping up to fill the void might be when missing one of their stars, there's a cumulative effect that, over time, will make going that route a losing proposition. 

The Celtics need their core guys healthy, ready to go. And when you look at their schedule, a taxing January schedule, and the fact that they have been able to survive way more than they should with this “next man up” brand of basketball, it shouldn’t come as too big a shock that they are coming up short when one of their best players (like Walker) isn’t available. 

MARCUS SMART DOING SMART-LIKE THINGS ALL GAME

It was very much a bittersweet time for Marcus Smart. He was giving the Celtics what the franchise and the fans have been clamoring for — a consistent 3-point shot. 

Smart was having the best game of his life shooting the ball against the Suns. He finished with a career-high 37 points scored, including a career-high 11 made 3’s. He also had eight assists and five rebounds. 

There are going to be very few nights when Smart plays this well, this locked in offensively. 

Even after many fans had headed to the exit, there was Smart, engaged, encouraging as ever, trying to will this team to a victory that they had no business getting.  It was the kind of leadership and big-game play that we’ve come to expect from him. 

And as impressive as it was, the end result was a Celtics loss. This one can be blamed on many factors and many players … but Smart ain’t one of them. 

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Lakers, which begins Monday at 6 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live. You can also stream on the MyTeams App.