But when the Boston Celtics’ Marcus Smart was at the center of that raucous locker room scene after Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals, when the shouting from both Smart and others could be heard all throughout the hallway and we later learned from The Athletic’s Shams Charania that a clash with Jaylen Brown had taken place following their second consecutive loss to Miami, Smart had more on his mind than blown leads and the routine rigors of the bubble experience. As the 26-year-old Smart discussed with The Athletic after practice on Monday, he was already “tipping over” emotionally heading into the game for a very painful and personal reason: The two-year anniversary of his mother’s passing had taken place the day before.
I’m coming from the standpoint of understanding, not making excuses. Marcus Smart: Yeah, exactly. And that’s the thing. And it’s tough because only the people who are in that locker room really understand and know what everybody is going through. So like I said, I don’t want to use it as an excuse but it definitely played a role to a certain extent. It’s definitely an emotional day. You’re already on an emotional scale where you’re already tipping over, and then something like (that happens) where you should’ve won for the second time against a really good team that you allowed to come back and steal both games from you. It just pushed it over the edge.
Marcus Smart: It was just — we were all disappointed. It was just disappointing. We lost two games that we should have won, and nobody was happy. I probably would have felt in trouble with the team as a team — like, we would’ve felt in trouble — if everybody was calm. After a Game 2 loss, up 17, up 14, two games and we lost it. We’re a great team and we’re playing against a great team, so we know we can’t have those types of meltdowns. So yeah, we were all disappointed. And when you’ve got a bunch of brothers who are disappointed, emotions fly and sometimes you’ve got to yell just to get it out and move on. It was one of those nights (laughs).
Did you wonder (if that would happen) when you went to bed that night, after you guys had those conversations back at the hotel? And who all took part in those talks? Marcus Smart: Yeah, you know we just got together and made sure that we were on the same page. We told each other that we love each other. It was me, Jaylen, Jayson, Kemba, and (coach) Brad Stevens. You know, we just got together and made sure that what happened in the locker room was really in the locker room. It’s unfortunate that it got out, but it happened. Like I said, we’re a family. Families fight. I don’t expect anything less. I expect that if a guy feels some way, then say it. I’d rather you say it than hold it in and let it come out too late.
Marcus Smart: No, I don’t have any regrets. And I don’t have any regrets with how my teammates handled it either. I think we handled it perfectly. If you can’t talk, if you can’t yell, if you can’t express how you truly feel with somebody who’s supposed to have your back, somebody who you’re supposed to trust, and vice versa, then are you really supposed to be trusting that person? That’s the type of team we are.
But the idea that you take that sort of a moment as a team and go to a higher place rather than going the wrong direction speaks well of all you guys, right? Marcus Smart: Yeah, and that’s why I said that we’ve grown with this experience. We’ve grown. We’ve matured. It would have been easy, and would have been understandable in some ways after that, for us to fall apart. Did you wonder (if that would happen) when you went to bed that night, after you guys had those conversations back at the hotel? And who all took part in those talks? Marcus Smart: Yeah, you know we just got together and made sure that we were on the same page. We told each other that we love each other.
It was me, Jaylen, Jayson, Kemba, and (coach) Brad Stevens. You know, we just got together and made sure that what happened in the locker room was really in the locker room. It’s unfortunate that it got out, but it happened. Like I said, we’re a family. Families fight. I don’t expect anything less. I expect that if a guy feels some way, then say it. I’d rather you say it than hold it in and let it come out too late. Like I said, it was electrifying for us to have it. It was something that probably we should have had a long time ago, but because we kind of just skated through we didn’t have to. And we knew eventually it was going to come up to bite us with the way we’d been playing, so it was something that needed to happen. Like I said, I love this group of guys. We all love each other. We all know that when any of us get emotional, there’s no malice and no bad intentions behind it. I think that’s kind of where and how we were all able to have the higher (outcome) because we all knew that it was coming from a great place.
Jay King: Marcus Smart called the Game 2 argument “electrifying.” He said families fight sometimes. “We weren’t supposed to be happy down 2-0.”
The aftermath of the Celtics' locker-room argument lasted deep into Thursday night and Friday afternoon before tensions between players were finally cooled, according to an NBA source. After Boston’s disheartening 106-101 loss to the Miami Heat in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals, screaming, yelling and items being thrown could be heard outside the locker room at AdventHealth Arena for 20-plus minutes as NBA officials and reporters waited anxiously for the players and coach Brad Stevens to be available for interviews.
Marcus Smart came out of that meeting chiding his teammates for their finger-pointing and lack of execution down the stretch. According to the source, Smart entered the locker room and began criticizing his teammates for their effort, going on a tirade as they watched.
As Smart continued to scream, Jaylen Brown told him to calm down and said losing was a team responsibility. Brown apparently flipped a table and the two had to be separated, which is when Smart left the room to use the rest room.
Smart has been deemed responsible for the incident but the yelling continued once he left for the rest room, which was down the hall from the locker room. Five minutes later Smart re-entered the locker room, where coaches and players could be heard yelling and throwing items for several more minutes.
And while the situation was downplayed by all parties — except Smart, who did not speak with the media — the situation continued a few hours after the game as Stevens met with Smart, Brown, Jayson Tatum and Kemba Walker to attempt to calm feelings. Smart, according to a source, grew angry again and left the late-night meeting abruptly as he and Brown began exchanging words.
Jared Weiss: Stevens on the Celtics infighting: "There was some scarring the other night that shows itself and that's part of being a team. Then the team reconnects and heals itself."
Jared Weiss: Brad Stevens on what he's learned about his team over the past 48 hours: "I don't know that I've learned a lot...Teams have times where emotions come up, that's just part of it."
Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens held a late-night hotel meeting with the team's leaders on Thursday to talk through the frustration and emotions that spilled into the locker room after a Game 2 loss to Miami in the Eastern Conference finals, sources told ESPN. Stevens met with Jayson Tatum, Kemba Walker, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart starting around 1 a.m. ET, and he let those players talk through the issues that had led to significant yelling and outbursts in the postgame locker room, sources said.
In the locker room and meeting, sources said, Smart's focus had been on heightening the urgency of a Celtics team that had blown a 20-point lead in the second half -- and turned the ball over 20 times for the game.
Part of the discussion in the late-night meeting had been about making sure the Celtics integrated forward Gordon Hayward as smoothly as possible back into the lineup, sources said. The Celtics upgraded Hayward (ankle) to questionable on Friday and are hopeful that he could play a role off the bench in Game 3 on Saturday, sources said. Among the coaching staff and players, there was a belief that players had sufficiently talked through the issues and were ready to start preparing for Game 3 on Saturday, sources said.
Nothing in the locker room escalated to a physical confrontation, sources said, and ultimately Smart marched out to start cooling off.
Stevens met with Jayson Tatum, Kemba Walker, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart starting around after 1 a.m. ET, and let those players talk through the issues that had led to significant yelling and outbursts in the post-game locker room, sources said. Among the coaching staff and players, there was a belief that players had sufficiently talked through the issues and were ready to start preparing for Game 3 on Saturday, sources said.
Nothing in the locker room escalated to anything close to a physical confrontation, sources said, and ultimately Smart marched out of the locker room to start cooling off. The stakes and circumstances of the series --- losing a second straight close playoff game to Miami, two-plus months confined to the Disney Wide World of Sports Bubble environment - certainly contributed to a scene that can be typical of postseason failure.
Adrian Wojnarowski: ESPN Sources: Brad Stevens had a late night Thursday meeting with Celtics leaders – Kemba Walker, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart – to work through emotions of post-Game 2 locker room. A lot of yelling in locker room, but nothing escalated to a physical confrontation.
Boston Celtics’ Marcus Smart and Jaylen Brown had a heated confrontation inside that locker room after the Game 2 loss and needed to be separated by teammates, multiple sources told The Athletic. Smart, who is widely regarded as Boston’s emotional leader, was heard shouting inside the postgame locker room after the Celtics’ loss to Miami.
Sources told The Athletic that Smart stormed into the Celtics postgame locker room saying that other players needed to be held accountable and not simply point the finger toward him when things are going wrong. As Smart continued and his voice grew louder, sources said Brown snapped back and shouted that Celtics players must stay together and that their actions must come as a team, not individually, and that Smart needed to cool off. Those sources added Smart had verbal exchanges with a couple of the assistant coaches during the game.
Smart and Brown had a tense interaction inside the locker room, with objects thrown around. Teammates diffused the situation before any physical altercation could take place, sources told The Athletic.
Smart and Brown have smoothed tensions over since the verbal spat, and one source said the Celtics would learn from it and move on from the episode Friday ahead of a pivotal Game 3 on Saturday. “They will move past this and focus on the task,” a source said late Thursday.
As Smart began to blow his gasket, ESPN’s Malika Andrews and the Boston Globe’s Gary Washburn tweeted about the situation in real-time before the rest of us media folks arrived to take a look. It had been nearly 10 minutes since the tweeting began, and you could still hear the yelling coming through the door. Before then, a Celtics assistant coach and a team security official made the mistake of opening the door mid-argument and letting all those f-bombs escape. In the minutes that followed, the security official and the team’s media services manager, Brian Olive, stood at the door waiting for the storm to pass while the postgame media routine was temporarily put on hold. At 9:55 p.m., approximately 30 minutes after the game had come to an end, it was finally safe to enter.
“That team is together for 48 minutes,” Brown said of the Heat. “I think we’ve yet to do that. I think we’re capable. We need every piece, everybody, to be all in and to continue to bring that energy, is what we’re gonna need. But I think this series is far from over. I’m ready for Game 3. I’m ready to come out, because that’s what it’s all about. Backs against the wall, ups, downs, fight.
Enes Kanter: Too many Bullsh.t rumors out there, this group of guys is one of the best I’ve been around. No one can split our family up. Keep fighting & grinding.
Jared Weiss: I know there were reports of what sounded like furniture hitting the wall in the Celtics locker room. I doubt this is it, but Semi Ojelye used to slam a medicine ball off the wall for an intense workout after frustrating losses.
Gary Washburn: Marcus Smart is screaming in the #Celtics locker room and there is a bunch of arguing going on. Smart comes out say “y’all on that bullshit!” Team is imploding. Smart is in bathroom and there is still screaming coming from locker room.
Gary Washburn: Smart wasn’t the only one yelling. There were definitely items thrown and a lot of yelling. #Celtics
Gary Washburn: Been outside a bunch of locker rooms in my days. That’s was as raucous as I’ve ever heard. #Celtics
Gary Washburn: Some players, including Smart, have left. Smart declined to speak with media. #Celtics
Malika Andrews: Jayson Tatum, when asked about the emotional locker room: “We’re 0-2. We're frustrated, but that's team sports. You're not supposed to be happy if you're down 0-2... It's just talking about the game. It's cool. Got to get ready for the next one.”
Sean Deveney: Four straight home losses in 8 days for the Celtics. The 'how' makes it worse: - Blew a 17-point lead to Houston on 2/29 - Blew a 21-point lead to Brooklyn on 3/3 - Blew an early 11-point lead to Utah on 3/6 - Blew an 18-point lead to OKC on 3/8
Many reports have tabbed Kyrie Irving as the source of the toxicity around the Celtics last season, but a former teammate refuted those claims over the weekend. “Kyrie got a lot of the blame and was undeserving,” Jaylen Brown told Brandon “Scoop B” Robinson. “It wasn’t his fault that certain guys couldn’t take a step back. It wasn’t his fault. That was the front office and the coach’s fault.” He gets a lot of that blame because he was the star. But a lot of that should be on the organization and coaching staff. It’s in the past. Kyrie is in a better place in Brooklyn, somewhere his roots are. He’ll be fine.” The Nets snapped a two-game skid by beating the 76ers, a feel-good win they thought they needed before hitting the road for games against the Pelicans (Tuesday) and Spurs (Thursday).
The first step to reviving your career is admitting you were the problem. “I failed those guys,” Kyrie Irving said, referring to last year’s disappointing season with the Boston Celtics. “I didn’t give them everything I could have during that season.”
“Basketball and the joy I had from it was sucked away from me,” Irving said. “There was a facial expression that I carried around with me throughout the year. I didn’t allow anyone to get close to me. I didn’t take the necessary steps to get counseling or get therapy to deal with somebody that close to me dying. I’ve never dealt with anything like that.”
Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens refuses to blame Kyrie Irving for last year’s failed season. “I like Kyrie and I wish him well,” said Stevens, speaking at a fundraiser in Boston at the Celtics practice facility. “Last year’s season didn’t go the way that we wanted it to, but that’s not on one person. That’s the responsibility of the whole group. It’s a team sport, everybody’s involved in that. There’s no way we should ever look at it any different.”
“He had a second-team All NBA season here,” Stevens said. “When you think about that and you look at his stats, he had as good a season as he’s had in his career—and he has the right, like every other free agent, to go choose their own destination.
Chris Forsberg: Marcus Smart on The Jump on 2018-19 Celtics dysfunction: “Let's call a spade a spade, right? It’s true. We were dysfunctional. … We all took part in it."
Sean Deveney: A veteran player told me a couple of years ago that his role in Boston was tough because he was never really told what was expected of him and that Stevens didn’t necessarily connect with players. That appeared to be the case this season, too, when the Celtics had a chemistry meltdown and Stevens could not rein in his locker room. One agent told me, “Most players don’t need their hands held, but they want to know where they stand and what they need to do. That’s not always coming from Stevens and it can be frustrating.”
ESPN's Jackie MacMullan explained Irving's disdain for the city on the "Brian Windhorst & The Hoop Collective" podcast. "Kyrie Irving didn't like Boston," MacMullan said. "I've been told this by many people. He didn't like living in Boston. He just didn't. By the end, he had issues with Brad [Stevens]. By the end, he had issues with Danny [Ainge]. By the end, he had issues with pretty much all of us."
Rob Parker: “What happened with Kyrie and Boston, and why did things go awry?” Chris Mannix: “You can write a whole book on what went wrong because the season was basically a disaster from start to finish. His relationship with the young players on the roster was awful. Jaylen Brown he was probably the worst with, I don’t think it was great with Jayson Tatum, and it was awful with Terry Rozier because Terry was supplanted at a position he thought he did enough to win. That created a pretty nasty atmosphere. Kyrie’s leadership skills were lacking and he failed at it. He was the first player to be coached by Brad Stevens who didn’t really enjoy being coached by Brad Stevens and that relationship wasn’t solid.”
Jackie MacMullan shared her thoughts on Arbella Early Edition Tuesday night. She cited Brad Stevens 'force feeding' Gordon Hayward to help him come back from his gruesome ankle injury as what started the Celtics' chemistry issues that seemingly plagued the team all year long. "You hate to pick on Gordon Hayward because he was coming back from injury and he was doing the best he could, but I really think that’s where it started," she said. "They were force feeding him on his teammates, Brad [Stevens] knew Gordon well, he wanted to get his confidence back.”
"I would contend that Brad Stevens would have done that for any player on that roster that had a catastrophic injury, he would want to fill him with that same confidence, but that’s not what happened," MacMullan continued. "He gave the benefit of the doubt over and over to a player that wasn’t ready, to a guy who had history with him, and it rankled that locker room, and it bothered that locker room."
Irving was AWOL emotionally much of this season in Boston. Of course he tried to lead, in his way. No one’s saying he didn’t. But it didn’t work. And the not-working was obvious, even though Irving is loath to explain himself and his methods to outsiders. His teammates defended him Thursday — “that’s just a bullshit statement to say that his leadership killed us,” Marcus Smart said, per The Athletic’s Jared Weiss — and, it’s true, no one person should get the blame for what happened.
Chris Forsberg: Marcus Smart on notion that Kyrie’s leadership hurt chemistry of the Celtics. “Bullshit. … That’s just a bullshit statement to say his leadership killed us.” Said he hasn’t talked to Kyrie about coming back but supports whatever he chooses to do. “I love Kyrie, as a brother."
“Everybody was running around with their heads cut off, like chickens,” backup point guard Terry Rozier III told Yahoo Sports. “Coach was in a tough position, one of the toughest positions, dealing with all these guys with attitudes, all that sh--. Guys that's All-Stars, guys getting paid a lot of money, guys trying to get paid. It's tough.” Rozier said he saw it on the first day of training camp, so many talented players who could make a case for bigger roles. “I feel like I sacrificed the most, but I’d do it any day for this team,” Rozier told Yahoo Sports. “A lot of things weren't fair to me, but it's not about me. That's why I don't bitch and complain.”
“I don't give a f--- what nobody say, I sacrificed the most out of anybody. I'm a top point guard in this league. I feel like it's a fresh start, whether I'm here or whether I'm gone.” said Rozier, a star last postseason in Irving’s absence who’s about to hit restricted free agency in July.
Meanwhile, Terry Rozier gave a “no comment” when asked about the Celtics having his matching rights, commending Brad Stevens for “dealing with a lot of guys that want to be great trying to get theirs.” The Celtics held on to Rozier as an insurance policy in case Irving left this summer, but Rozier and his agents will try to price the team out of his market. It leaves Boston with a conundrum of whether, with Rozier likely gone, moving forward with Irving is actually in their best interest.
Celtics players concede that earlier in the season Irving's mood swings often left them treading lightly in the locker room. Both Stevens and Ainge addressed it with their best player, and he promised to be more aware. "His positive outlook lately has made a huge difference," Rozier says.
“Trade rumors don’t bother me,” he said in his deep monotone. “They’re talking about trading me for guys like Anthony Davis. So, I mean, I must be doing something pretty well.” When pressed on whether this bothered him, he didn’t budge: “I love the game of basketball. Being traded is part of the game. I’ll play for whomever. It’s something I can’t control.”
Terry Rozier’s postgame comments were. Not because he scored 21 points. Because he felt it was appropriate to tell reporters he was ready to start the postseason because he didn’t have fun in the regular season. Yeah. I know I’m happy, I can speak for myself. The season hasn’t been fun, personally. I know there’s better things to come. I know we’re going to have a great playoff push and I’m ready for it.
Danny Ainge has defended Kyrie Irving's comments in the past, and he did so again Thursday — to a certain extent. Irving appeared to call out Brad Stevens and the Boston Celtics coaching staff Saturday night after a loss to the Hornets, suggesting his team should have trapped Kemba Walker instead of allowing the Charlotte star to "torch" the C's. Ainge was asked about Irving's comments Thursday during his weekly interview on 98.5 The Sports Hub's "Toucher & Rich." "I did hear (Irving's comments). It's not that uncommon," the Celtics' president of basketball operations said. "Guys get frustrated, and maybe that was the first thing that came to his mind is, 'We should have done something different with Kemba.' "
That, to many, sounds like Boston has a proverbial switch that can be flipped come playoff time where all the intensity and effort come flooding back and the preseason projection Celtics can storm the floor and knock our socks off. Danny Ainge, appearing today on 98.5′s Toucher & Rich show, disputes that notion, saying it’s a bit more nuanced than that. “I don’t really believe that you can flip a switch," Ainge said. “But I do believe that things can come together, your health, your concentration, your focus can be better.”
“I’m excited right now because our team is getting healthy, we haven’t had Baynes and Horford, in the lineup very much this year," Ainge said. "I’m excited about where we can be in the playoff and not just this game Friday, I think it will be a fun game on Friday night, I think that we have seven fun games to finish the season.”
It was the latest frustrating outing for the Celtics (43-31), who held an extended players-only meeting after the game. The locker room wasn't opened to reporters until more than 30 minutes after the final buzzer. "Winning's hard. Team environments are hard," Irving said. "It's not as simple as listening to everybody else speak about what's going on with the team. ... Nobody's been in my position. Nobody here. So I don't expect anybody to understand that. Nobody can speak on it. "For me, my focus is figuring out, the guys I have in this locker room, is how to get the best out of them and them get the best out of me."
Coach Brad Stevens was also delayed before speaking with reporters. He said he opened the floor for players to offer insights into their current struggles, but said it wasn't uncharacteristic for him to seek such input. "There's some frustration in there," Stevens said. "We don't need to ride the emotional rollercoaster. We need to get a lot better."
Brian Robb: Stevens on his lengthy postgame chat with team: "I wouldn't call that a meeting. It lasted a little bit longer than usual."
Jared Weiss: Stevens on long locker room open conversation with team: “That’s not all that unusual. We have an open locker room. Guys talk, so I wouldn’t call that a meeting...It might have lasted a little bit longer than my typical pre game, see you tomorrow speech.”
Scott Souza: #Celtics coach Brad Stevens: I have never been a part of a team that has been solely reliant on making shots. For the last month that's what we've been. @CLNSMedia @CelticsCLNS
“We’ve just got to take a deep breath,” Marcus Smart calmly stated after the game as he leaned back in a chair in front of his locker. “We’ve just gotta take a deep breath and calm down. We’re anxious, we want to get some wins, and we want to get back on the track of winning, but we really got to take a deep breath and get back to the team that really got us the reputation that we upheld into this season. Just being dogs on the court, making nobody want to play against us. Right now, teams just feel like they can do whatever they want against us. That’s on us, we gotta fix it. We will.”
“I think recently transition defense has been a problem for us,” said Gordon Hayward, who emerged from the NBA’s concussion protocol Sunday night to deliver a 13-point, 10 rebound performance. “I think a lot of times, for the most part, when we are able to set our defense, we’ve been pretty tough, but sometimes we’re not getting back. Some of that’s offensive blows, shot selection, long rebounds, turnovers – but definitely transition defense. When they’re coming at you and you’re not set, that’s tough to defend. So that’s been a key of ours in film sessions and we’ve gotta make sure that we hold ourselves to that.”
Chris Forsberg: Danny Ainge on @Toucherandrich takes positive approach on state of team: “It’s not as gloomy and doomy to me. I see a lot of good things happening … Statistically, in a lot of ways, we are better than in our  and 55-win seasons, and I believe that we are. Time will tell."
When asked how to to fix things, he put it pretty simply. “Win. It’s like the cure it all goes away," he told Leahy. "A week ago we was he talk, all the negativity now we win two games and everybody love us. That’s just how it go.”
Card games, dice games, enthusiastic chatter and some music from DJ Kyrie, according to several players who all agreed the team’s spirits changed by the time the flight landed in California. “It was a good ride,” Marcus Morris said. “It just so happened to come after we got our ass beat. And at that time it kind of changed the outlook on everything, and guys just had a better attitude, man. Just more positive. And I think it carried over into the games.”
“Even the guys that usually are real to themselves, really don’t talk as much, everybody was together,” Marcus Smart said. “Everybody was interacting with one another. All smiles and laughs.”
Chris Grenham: Jaylen Brown on The Jump on if he thinks he should be starting: "It doesn't matter to me as long as we keep winning."
“Because we have a team that’s so talented, the media is always going to [overreact],” Celtics forward Marcus Morris told Yahoo Sports. “You lose one game and it’s like the [end of the world]. But now, I bet now since we won the game [Tuesday night], they’re going to be like, ‘Ah, [expletive], now they can go to the championship and all this other [expletive]. You know how it goes. It’s just what it is. But I think this was a good game for us, a great turnaround. It was a big win on Golden State’s home court. It’s definitely a statement win for us.”
“To be honest, I’m not feeling good at all,” Brown said. “The losing, it’s not a good feeling. I’m not too good about that. “Because right now it’s not good. It’s toxic. I can’t really point out one thing. I don’t have all the answers. I’m just going to try to be part of the change. I’m going to try to do my best. That’s all I’ve got to say.”
When asked how he helps change the culture, Brown said: “I just try to come out and play hard and hopefully that sparks some [change]. But it’s not just up to one person. It’s up to the whole group. “Everybody has to be on page,” he said. “If one person’s not on page, it’s going to affect the whole group. I just try to come out and play hard and see where that leaves me.”
These days, Irving plays lackadaisical defense, and unfocused offense. Sources around the team told me that Irving’s persona has changed, too: He’s become disengaged and detached from those around the team. There is talk that Irving’s friendships on the team start and end with Tatum, with whom he shares an agent. Two sources peg Irving’s change in demeanor to early February, around the time he was asked about the possibility of joining the New York Knicks next season. That’s when Irving infamously said he’d make the best decision for his family and that he didn’t “owe anybody shit.” This induced panic among Boston fans. After all, it was a much different tune than the one Irving was singing in October 2018, when he told a gathering of Celtics season-ticket holders that he intended to re-sign with the team (multiple sources say that same commitment was expressed to his teammates).
On Sunday afternoon, Boston Celtics guard Kyrie Irving was entering TD Garden ahead of a nationally televised game against the Houston Rockets. Ordinarily, it would be the kind of moment Irving lived for: a big stage, a big opponent, and a big moment. “I’m not gonna miss any of this shit when I’m done playing,” said Irving. Someone standing nearby noted that the lights and cameras are all part of basketball. Irving responded, “I don’t care if it is.”
Or maybe they have one, and that identity is discontent. I spent some time around the team over the past few days, in Boston. After Friday’s win against the Wizards, all you could hear was the thud of Semi Ojeleye’s weights hitting the floor behind a closed door next to the Celtics locker room. Besides a short conversation between Irving and Rozier, everyone in the locker room was quiet. According to various team reporters, it’s been like that all year, no matter if the team wins or loses.
"Right now, unfortunately, we are going through a really bad stretch," Horford said. "This is when our group, we need to make sure that we stay together and even closer because I know it's hard. We're the first ones that don't want to lose, but we just need to continue to work because we feel like we can be better than this."
“I don’t normally do that, but I felt like we were kind of splitting apart,” Ojeleye said during a quiet moment at his locker. “And I think we have to try to change it. I mean, the season’s wasting away. In the NBA teams are only together for so long. So it’s time to change it.”
Count Boston Celtics co-owner Wyc Grousbeck among those disappointed with the team's performance of late. Speaking Saturday at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, Grousbeck said the Celtics just finished the "worst February" he can remember since taking over the team in 2002. The Celtics were 5-6 last month, including a finishing stretch where they lost four straight games.
Grousbeck acknowledged that the Celtics aren't necessarily worried about finishing with the best record in the Eastern Conference, adding that the team as constructed has "the capability of getting to the Finals." "We also have the capability of losing in the first round," Grousbeck said, according to Boston.com. "We have a very, very good set of opponents in the East, all of whom have beaten us in the last month."
Heading into Sunday's game against the Houston Rockets (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC), the Celtics (38-25) sit in fifth place in the Eastern Conference, two games behind the Philadelphia 76ers for fourth and home-court advantage in the first round. "I really have a lot of hope for these guys," Grousbeck said. "I give us a chance. I don't think anybody wants to play us in the playoffs. I really do think, after 16 years in the league, that these guys still have a chance."
Jay King: Jaylen Brown said he’s looking at the struggles “optimistically.” “I look at it as a good opportunity to come out and play hard, play Celtics basketball, to prove that I love the game and I’m here to play.”
Jay King: Marcus Morris on his tweet last night expressing confidence: “I don’t tweet a lot at all. And I really meant it. We’re gonna get this shit together. We’re gonna have a better attitude. We owe each other to play better, man.”
Chris Forsberg: Marcus Morris, unprompted, held court at shootaround this morning. Pinned blame on himself for part of Boston’s struggles. Said he wants to be a better leader. “Bring some soul back to this shit, man."
Tatum scored 31 points and Boston took its turn pounding Miami early, jumping out to a 26-4 lead and cruising to a 102-82 victory that evened the Eastern Conference finals at two games apiece. “Obviously, we knew how important this game was,” Tatum said. “Everybody just had to come up with a different sense of urgency.”
ESPN Stats: Points Scored in Game 4: All Heat starters — 18 Victor Oladipo — 23 This is the very first playoff game that an entire starting lineup was outscored by a player from its bench (since starters were first tracked in 1970-71).
Zach Kram: Re NBA blowouts: 18% of games this postseason have been decided by 25+ points. The record is 23% in 2016. But we remember the 2016 playoffs as amazing because of GSW-OKC and CLE-GSW. A few remarkable moments and series can make up for other blowouts across the board.