BOSTON -- As the Boston Celtics’ season continued to steer off course, the players and coaches held a team meeting following Friday’s 120-107 loss to Milwaukee.
Players were mum on the specifics discussed, but there was a clear and undeniable theme throughout the meeting that lasted about 30 minutes.
“We have to play to a certain level, and we haven’t played to that level,” said Boston’s Jaylen Brown.
The loss to the Bucks was the Celtics’ third straight, dropping their overall record to just 18-13 which is a far cry from what many - including themselves - envisioned in what has been a season in which the Celtics were expected to contend for an NBA title.
While there’s still plenty of time for that to still happen, there’s no getting around how the Celtics have been under-performing most of this season.
BUCKS 120, CELTICS 107
The loss to the Bucks (22-9) was certainly disappointing, but I asked Kyrie Irving was there anything beyond the loss itself which made a team meeting following tonight’s game warranted.
“Much needed; much needed you know,” Irving said of the meeting. “I think everyone can see that we’ve had some inconsistencies regarding our play. I think it was the time to address it.”
Jaylen Brown described the meeting as the players, “trying to get on the same page.”
Brown would later add, “we have to talk and (tonight) was the time we choose to talk. I will keep ... what we talked about between us, but we have to do better.”
Jayson Tatum echoed similar sentiments regarding the meeting.
“We just have to be better as a team,” Tatum said.
The Celtics have a roster full of players who have had situations in the past where they were part of a team that either hit a rut in the season or weren’t playing quite as well as they and others, were expecting.
“Any teams I have played on when you are not playing well you talk it out to be better the next day,” Tatum said. “We just have to play harder, and playing hard usually translates to winning and we have to do that.”
During the team's struggles this season, they often speak about a lack of effort or being on the same page as contributing to their problems which is somewhat surprising when you consider most of the Celtics' core players were together last season.
But last season’s team didn’t come in with the kind of lofty expectations of this crew. And while last season’s team had its share of injuries, this year’s squad has been besieged by the injury bug at big forward/center position which is one that they weren’t all that deep to begin with.
Al Horford (patellofemoral pain syndrome, left knee) is out indefinitely, his backup Aron Baynes (fractured fourth metacarpal, right hand) will be sidelined for at least a month and Marcus Morris (knee soreness) has missed the last two games.
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With so many key bigs out, the Bucks made the Celtics pay dearly for their lack of big man depth as they out-rebounded Boston 55-36.
The rebounding didn’t necessarily lead directly to a ton of points for the Bucks, but instead robbed Boston of opportunities to score more points.
Regardless, the factors that led to Boston’s most recent loss are an afterthought in the context of what really matters now and that’s the Celtics figuring out a way to regain that championship swagger we have seen in spurts all season but never with enough consistency to firmly entrench themselves as one of the top teams in the NBA.
And while the fact that so many of the team's current players were with the team a year ago ideally helps, that’s not always enough.
“I think that, sitting from where you (media) are sitting, thinking that the offseason, thinking that we’re all together 24/7, we all are just supposed to come together as just human beings playing the game we love … it’s a lot easier said than done in terms of building a championship team,” Irving said. “It starts with our habits, it starts with our preparation, how we go about treating each other and going out there and putting on a great performance every single night regardless of whether the ball is going in the rim or not.
Irving added, “that’s an everyday thing. I know that everyone would like to think that, ‘hey, what’s going on?’ It’s an everyday job. I’ve been saying it since the beginning of the season. It’s not going to look pretty, it’s not going to look great all the time. But the biggest thing for me is patience. I think also, just being honest with one another; how we feel and being able to talk to one another without anyone taking it personal.”
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