Celtics

Grande: Celtics drafting of Williams a very Spurs-like move

Grande: Celtics drafting of Williams a very Spurs-like move

Are the Boston Celtics turning into the San Antonio Spurs?

Appearing Friday morning on "Toucher & Rich" on 98.5 The Sports Hub, long-time Celtics radio play-by-play announcer Sean Grande said that drafting Texas A&M center Robert Williams -- once speculated as a potential lottery pick -- late in the first round was a play straight out of the Spurs' playbook.

"With the caveat that every team pretty much wakes up this morning and says ‘Wow, we nailed it’, it’s hard to imagine the Celtics could do better," Grande said. "I don’t want to say they’ve become the Spurs, but this is what the Spurs, picking every year in this spot, would do. You wake up the next day, and say, ‘Wow, how did the Spurs get a really good player? How’d they get a player they weren’t supposed to get late in the first round?’"

And the Celtics have their own discipline to thank for this, Grande added.

"I think the key to this draft, wasn’t it really, was to not overreact, not to get involved in all the crazy, and the Celtics are exactly where they wanted to be 24 hours later," he said.

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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. 

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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. 

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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.