Celtics Remain Winless Since All-Star Break; Smart Lifts Team Late But Comes Up Short Due to a "Dumb Ass Shot"
The Boston Celtics lose yet again, now 0-4 since the All-Star Break, despite a late game comeback run led by Marcus Smart.
No need to beat around the bush. It's becoming sickening how routine watching this team fall short has become. Every opportunity the Celtics get to flip the switch, whether it's on the court or during a post-game interview, they fail. It's come to the point where the most excitement from this 2018-19 Boston Celtics team comes from the obvious post-game division within the locker room. We saw it after the embarrassing effort of a double digit loss in Toronto where Marcus Smart stated that the team is "just not together". This followed by "I mean that's Marcus's opinion. I respect it" from Kyrie Irving. Not exactly the ideal response to rally your fanbase after an unconvincing defeat. Well, this is where we've arrived in late February with this team.
It all began with back-to-back loses from Los Angeles, perhaps anger motivated from February's Super Bowl. The "BEAT LA" chant quickly disappeared from existence in the TD Garden. Nevertheless a blown 28-point lead and a Rajon Rondo game winner along with the worst possible start to the final 30 or so percent to the season. Since then the Celtics have emerged as one of the most dysfunctional defensive units in basketball today. A lot of that proved to be true again last night against one of most dominant teams in the West, the Portland Trailblazers.
Fortunately for the Celtics, the dynamic outside shooting duo of CJ McCollum and Damian Lillard didn't drain 17 three-point field goal attempts like the Raptors did a few nights back. In fact quite the contrary took place with Portland as a team shooting a disastrous 18%, connecting on just 6 of 33 attempts from beyond the arc. Surely with an opportunity at hand to at least out-shoot the Trail Blazers from three, the Celtics would manage to counter right? Na. The Celtics couldn't even do that, shooting a perfectly identical 18%, going 5 for 28 from three point territory.
Marcus Morris (8 points, 3/10 FG) led the charge on that outside shooting drought, going 0-6 from three while Al Horford (13 points, 6/16 FG) followed with his 1-7 night from the outside. Take away Kyrie Irving's 3-5 shooting from three and you've got a 2 of 23 three-point shots connecting... or 8.7%. Irving finished with 31 points to lead the Celtics, 5 rebounds, and 3 assists on 14/24 shooting from the field.
When all appeared to be but another hopeless defeat of the Boston Celtics, it was none other than Marcus Smart who stepped up with a playoff heroic type run to help clean up the mess. It was a completely opposite mood to what we saw from Kyrie Irving on the bench in Toronto. Probably the biggest highlight from Boston's end when Marcus Smart finished in transition at the 9:40 mark in the fourth quarter, cutting Portland's lead to 4 at 76-72. Smart showed some of the most inspiring emotion in probably months!
However from time-to-time Marcus Smart proves to be the Marcus Smart we've all come to know and love. What better way to show that than chucking up a contested three-point field goal, down 5, and with 46.3 seconds remaining in the game.
Following the game, Marcus Smart had a number of thoughts, describing his late fourth quarter three point attempt as "a dumb a** shot by me". However perhaps Marcus Smart is the voice of reason in the locker room that can rally this team together. Whether or not he's an authentic optimist, he's certainly playing the role in convincing fashion, stating "we still have the chance... still have an opportunity". I mean, based on what he delivered, aside from his "dumb a** shot", I'm with him. Smart showed genuine frustration, irritated like many in Celtics nation with the underperformance we've become subjected to watching on a night-to-night basis. Did we over-react to Boston's "cinderella-like" playoff run last season? Perhaps. Nevertheless the fact remains in that this is one of the most talent-stacked organizations in not just the Eastern Conference, but in the league entirely!
Hopefully some of Marcus Smart's optimism, grit, and sufficient effort will wear off by Friday night when the Celtics welcome the 25-36 Washington Wizards to the TD Garden. Until then let's just keep our ears open for further commentary because the product on the floor from this Celtics team is yet to be worthy of any attention. Wins since the All-Star Break: 0 in 4 attempts.