Please assign a menu to the primary menu location under menu

News

Celtics not concerned with defensive, rebounding issues to start season: ‘It’s on us’

[ad_1]

The calendar has not yet even turned to November, but the Celtics are already developing some troubling trends.

They were once again on display in Friday night’s 132-123 overtime loss to the Cavaliers, a game that got away from the Celtics because of continued defensive and rebounding issues, which have at times gone hand in hand. Caris LeVert and Donovan Mitchell scored 41 points apiece as they found holes everywhere in Boston’s defense, and the Cavs took advantage of timely second-chance opportunities, which have been an Achilles’ heel for the Celtics through five games.

But the C’s aren’t worried – yet.

“It’s on us,” Jaylen Brown said. “We’ve gotta come out and those are all controllable things. So we’re not concerned. I think that we’ve done it before and we can do it again. It’s just, like, re-locking in, refocusing and emphasizing on things that we should be prioritizing right now.”

After the loss, the Celtics dropped to 26th in the NBA in defensive rating – only better than the Pacers, Grizzlies, Nets and Pistons.

The Celtics’ defense was obviously the foundation of their midseason turnaround to the NBA Finals last season, but without their defensive anchor Rob Williams – who remains out after preseason knee surgery – they’ve had problems repeating it. Smaller lineups have forced them to sacrifice size, and with different lineups and some new players, they’re still adjusting on connecting with each other. But they aren’t making excuses.

Even before Friday’s loss, reigning Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smart made it simple. They ranked as the best defensive team in the league last season, and even with mixing in some new personnel, they should know what it takes to do it again.

“Start defending like we used to. Literally, that’s it,” Smart said. “We got all the tools. We know what it takes. We know the mindset we have to have. We’ve just gotta go do it. We’re adjusting obviously, without Rob, but that’s never stopped us before. Even more than ever without Rob, that mindset and mentality has to be even greater of a detail for us to focus on. So we know what we have to do. Just gotta go do it.”

Jayson Tatum, too, wasn’t setting off any panic alarms after Friday’s performance. And they know they can’t wait on Williams to return to figure it out.

“I’m not super concerned,” Tatum said. “It’s something that we obviously need to work on, something we need to fix, just get on the same page. Obviously, we know the level of defense that we can play as a unit and it’s just about finding ourselves and getting back to that place.

“Obviously, it will help when we get Rob back, but even before then, we got enough to be a really good defensive team. We just got to continue to make that effort every single play, or more often than not, than we are right now.”

Smart chalked up a significant part of the issues to rebounding – or lack thereof. They were smoked on the glass in Monday’s blowout loss to the Bulls, and though it wasn’t quite as poor in Friday’s loss to the Cavs, their problems resurfaced at the worst times. Twice in the final minutes of regulation, LeVert soared in for offensive rebounds that translated to five points as the Cavs came back to force overtime.

Al Horford looked particularly upset as LeVert went in unmarked to grab the second board through three Celtics – including himself – in the paint before splashing a go-ahead 3-pointer in the corner with a minute left in regulation. Sequences like that have become far too common to begin the season.

“We’re doing a good job of allowing one shot, but then not giving up the rebound offensively, and that’s just effort,” Smart said. “Yeah, we might be undersized, but our physicality, we’re still strong enough to gang-rebound, to help one another, and that’s where we’ve gotta get better at. That’s going to take all five especially, like I said, with Rob down, we need all five.”

There’s still obviously plenty of time for the Celtics to work through their early-season problems, as last year’s turnaround showed. Right now, while they know they need to be better, there’s no serious concern.

“I think we just have to execute,” Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla said. “I don’t know if it’s a trend or an issue. … I don’t know if it’s as much of an issue as it is just being more consistent on both ends of the floor and not relaxing.”

[ad_2]

Source link