Nov 6, 2016; Boston, MA, USA;  Denver Nuggets guard Emmanuel Mudiay (0) collides with Boston Celtics Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart (36) during the second half at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Marcus Smart says the Celtics need to get down and dirty on defense. (Bob DeChiara-USA Today Sports)

WALTHAM — Marcus Smart is a man of pride. And when it comes to his game in the NBA, it starts with defense. 

What was on display Sunday night – and for the better part of the season – has hit home with the third-year defensive specialist. 

The Celtics were blown out on the home court Sunday night in 123-107 loss to the Nuggets. They allowed 42 points in the first quarter and trailed 77-52 at the half. From the start, it was not good. 

“We’re just not in it. We’re coming out too cool,” Smart said. “Teams are coming out ready. We’re not sneaking up on nobody this year. We’re the hunted. Everybody is coming out after us and we’re so used to being the guys that are sneaking up on everybody. That’s just not the case this year.

“We played a team that was hungry and was playing with a chip on their shoulder. Their coach ridiculed them and they felt that. They came out ready. They punched us in the mouth and we stood there and took it. Today’s practice was (about) we get punched, we’ve got to be ready to punch back. We’ve got to be ready to be in a boxing match.”

It got so bad that after the game, coach Brad Stevens called his team a finesse team. That might as well be a four-letter word to the ears of Smart. 

“Yeah, we definitely do. That’s definitely a challenge. We’re not a finesse team,” Smart said after Monday’s practice. “We understand that. But we did play finesse the other night. So, he was right to call us that. We’ve got to look ourselves in the mirror and we’ve got to own up to it and take responsibility. The good thing about this sport and any sport, especially basketball, you get to go play another game. We’ve got to throw that game out the window and get ready for Wednesday.” 

Monday’s practice was primarily about film, specifically watching all the things the Celtics did wrong as a team on defense. 

“It was horrible. Everybody was disgusted with it. Everybody was disgusted with themselves and the way the team played,” Smart said. “We know that’s not how we play and that something that has to change and that starts with each other and started today in practice.” 

Longer than normal?

“Yeah, it was longer. We watched all negative clips, the things we didn’t do,” Smart said. “We just kept it honest with each other. With the team, that’s what you need. You need everybody to be honest. You can’t have anybody worrying about themselves because everybody did something wrong. It wasn’t just one person out there. It was everybody. It was a good thing to do today, watch film, watch what we did wrong and try to fix those mistakes.” 

“We were out there today. Everybody was into each other, competing and trying to make sure they won’t be that guy on film again.” 

Smart has faith that the team allowing the third most points in the NBA per game (111.8) can turn it around because they know what their standards are. 

“Just keep going hard. Just keep going out there and bringing the energy and I know they will. They do it in practice. Being around these guys, they’re going to pick it up,” Smart said. 

This is a Celtics team that right now is missing two huge pieces in the front court in Al Horford (concussion) and Jae Crowder (ankle). Kelly Olynyk is getting closer but still hasn’t seen action. That means players like Jaylen Brown have to learn on the fly. 

“Just the experience. Al’s experience, Kelly’s experience, we lack that. And Jae being about to play the ‘4’ and the ‘3’, his versatility. You lack that with guys that have been here a while and know what they’re doing. The young guys are still learning,” Smart said. “You’ve got guys that aren’t used to it yet and they’re put in a fire. That’s why we’ve got guys like me, Gerald, Jae, Al, those guys have been here helping them and trying to teach them. Unfortunately, because of the injuries, we don’t have the time to take the time and walk them through things. They have to be able to learn on the fly.

“This isn’t college or high school no more. This is the cream of the crop. Unfortunately, you get put in the fire. You don’t have time to worry about yourself or to feel sorry for yourself. You’ve got to be ready to take criticism and be coachable. And that’s the part of being a great team and a great teammate.”

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

The NBA season may only be a week old, but it’s never too early for the rumor mill to start churning with news that could impact the Celtics.

DeMarcus Cousins

DeMarcus Cousins

The NBA season may only be a week old, but it’s never too early for the rumor mill to start churning with news that could impact the Celtics.

First up: According to NBA insider Sam Amico, at least one Western Conference exec believes the Kings are “50-50” to trade center DeMarcus Cousins this season.

“If not, it’s not necessarily because they want to keep him,” the exec added.

The Kings are off to a 3-5 start after Cousins scored 22 points and grabbed 14 rebounds in Sunday’s victory in Toronto. However, according to Amico’s sources, Cousins is such a problem in the locker room, the Kings may eventually have no choice but to move him to a team with strong veteran leadership.

Whether the Celtics could be that team, with Isaiah Thomas and Al Horford, remains to be seen, but they’re in a position to be linked to any high-profile player who becomes available, thanks to two more potential lottery picks from the Nets this year and next.

There’s no questioning Cousins’ talent. The seven-year vet and two-time All-Star has averaged over 20 points and 10 rebounds a game for his career, but he has also been suspended multiple times for everything from accumulated technical fouls to insubordination.

“They’ll never get what they want in return,” an East GM told Amico of the Kings. “They think Cousins is worth more than he actually is. He hurts you every bit as much as he helps you. He’s like a cheeseburger, or booze. Too much and you’ll pay a price.”

Blog Author: 

Brad Stevens saw his team fix some things in earning their second win of the season. (Jeremy Brevard/USA Today Sports)

Brad Stevens says his team needs to sustain their aggressiveness on the defensive end (Jeremy Brevard/USA Today Sports)

Following their 123-107 loss to the Nuggets on Sunday at TD Garden, Brad Stevens pointed to his team’s physicality as the biggest reason why the Celtics have struggled defensively in their first six games of the season.

The Celtics allow an average of 113 points a game. Five of their first six opponents of the season have finished with no less than 105 points as the Celtics (3-3) are now a .500 team. 

“I think we play like a finesse team, and they play physical,” Stevens explained after the Celtics’ loss on Sunday. “So I kind of saw that right out of the gate. You know, they were getting where they wanted to on their drives.”

How far are the Celtics from becoming a top three defensive team?

“I don’t even know if it’s statistically possible based on our week,” Stevens answered. “I don’t even know if you can make it up in 76 games but we can get a lot better. But it starts with holding your ground physically. You know (Emmanuel) Mudiay goes nuts, that’s fine, but Mudiay also gets two put-backs — or at least one put-back early — that gets you going. Makes you feel good about yourself; we brought a little bit of aggressiveness at the start of the third quarter but that wasn’t sustainable.

So, I don’t know. I don’t have the answer. Obviously, we’ve got some guys that aren’t playing that will play, but this is about physically holding your ground.”

Although allowing points has been the Celtics’ biggest flaw, scoring on the other end of the floor has been their biggest strength. Boston is averaging a whopping 110.1 points per game — one of the better team averages in the league.

Stevens alluded to his team’s success on the offensive end as a reason why he’s not surprised by the fact that the Celtics are struggling defensively. 

“I thought that this was possible,” Stevens explained. “I think anytime that you have a year where you achieve relative success on one end of the floor, there’s slippage — that’s bound to occur because of shortcuts are bound to be taken. What’s most disappointing to me is the lack of physicality. But that’s on me, like I told you. I’ve got to play the guy that plays more physical, that’s just the way it goes.”

Celtics will look to improve to 4-3 on Wednesday night when they head to Washington D.C. to take on John Wall, Bradley Beal and the Wizards. 

Blog Author: 
Josue Pavon

Celtics coach Brad Stevens, addressing Boston’s issues on defense this season, told reporters after Saturday’s practice that the team has “slipped in some defensive areas.” In Sunday’s 123-107 loss to the Nuggets, the C’s slipped, skidded, fell off a cliff and crashed into smithereens.

Nuggets guard Emmanuel Mudiay drives past Avery Bradley during the Celtics' loss Sunday night. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

Nuggets guard Emmanuel Mudiay drives past Avery Bradley during the Celtics’ loss Sunday night. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

Celtics coach Brad Stevens, addressing Boston’s issues on defense this season, told reporters after Saturday’s practice that the team has “slipped in some defensive areas.” In Sunday’s 123-107 loss to the Nuggets, the C’s slipped, skidded, fell off a cliff and crashed into smithereens.

Denver (3-3) had its way from start to finish, shooting 52.4 percent in handing Boston (3-3) its first home loss of the young season.

Nuggets guard Emmanuel Mudiay scorched the Celtics for 24 points in the opening 12 minutes and finished with 30 on 11-of-17 shooting. Wilson Chandler added 22 points, making 8-of-14 shots.

Isaiah Thomas also scored 30 points, but he had to work a lot harder for his, hitting 9-of-17 shots and making 11-of-12 free throws. Avery Bradley contributed 14 points, 11 rebounds and six assists.

Denver was playing its fourth road game in seven days and was coming off a 17-point loss in Detroit the night before. No matter. The Nuggets scored 77 points in the opening half, taking a 25-point lead and sending the Celtics to the locker room amid a smattering of boos from the home crowd. The Nuggets hit 64.4 percent of their shots and outrebounded the Celtics 22-15.

Stevens tried everything, including playing all 12 players on his bench. Jordan Mickey provided a brief spark, getting open underneath for three dunks.

The C’s finally showed signs of life to open the second half, picking up full court, playing their man far more aggressively and boxing out with a purpose. That led to an 8-0 run that included three Denver turnovers, and a spurt that cut the deficit to 15 midway through the period. However, the Nuggets pushed the lead back to 20 heading into the final quarter (103-83) and cruised home from there.

The first quarter was the Celtics’ worst nightmare. When Stevens called his second timeout with 1:45 remaining in the period— following three Mudiay treys in a 50-second span — the Nuggets had built a 20-point lead. Mudiay finished the quarter with 24 points on 9-of-10 shooting with four rebounds. Denver scored 42 points in the period on the strength of 17-of-25 shooting and a 12-5 rebounding edge.

Al Horford (concussion), Kelly Olynyk (shoulder) and Jae Crowder (ankle) missed the game. Hereford and Olynyk are expected to play in Wednesday’s game at Washington.

For the box score, click here.

Stud of the night: Emmanuel Mudiay

The 6-foot-5 guard was unstoppable early, hitting a variety of shots over the smaller Celtics guards. In addition scoring 30 points, he grabbed eight rebounds.

Dud of the night: Celtics defense

The Cs already ranked near the bottom of the league in most defensive categories, and this one isn’t going to help them any.

When the game was won/lost: When Mudiay went off in the first quarter

After one period, Mudiay was on pace to score 96 points, and the Celtics were trailing by 19. Mudiay was relatively quiet the rest of the night, but the Celtics never recovered.

Blog Author: 
Jerry Spar

Jaylen Brown (right) looked like he belonged in the NBA on Thursday against Tristan Thompson and the Cavaliers.</p>
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The city of Cleveland was in need after a pick-me-up following the Indians’ Game 7 loss to the Cubs, and on Thursday night the Cavaliers gave it to them, jumping out to a big lead then holding on for a 128-122 win over the short-handed Celtics to remain unbeaten on the young season.

The city of Cleveland was in need after a pick-me-up following the Indians’ Game 7 loss to the Cubs, and on Thursday night the Cavaliers gave it to them, jumping out to a big lead then holding on for a 128-122 win over the short-handed Celtics to remain unbeaten on the young season.

The defending NBA champions rained down 3-pointers — 11 of their 13 coming in the first half as they took a 68-51 lead into the locker room — and loaded up on transition baskets as the C’s struggled to stay close most of the night. Boston managed to whittle a 20-point deficit to five points midway through the final quarter after a Jaylen Brown 3-pointer.

The C’s rookie, who made his first career start in place of the injured Jae Crowder and drew the assignment of guarding LeBron James, finished with 19 points and was a team-best plus-15.

Avery Bradley had a big night, scoring 26 points on 11-of-20 shooting and grabbing 10 rebounds. Isaiah Thomas netted 28 points, although he missed all six of his 3-point attempts.

James (12-of-22 field goals) scored a game-high 30 points as he closed in on 10th place on the NBA’s all-time scoring list. He now sits at 26,945, one point behind Hakeem Olajuwon. James also had seven rebounds and 12 assists.

The Celtics were playing without Crowder (sprained ankle) and Al Horford (concussion) as well as Kelly Olynyk (shoulder).

Blog Author: 
Jerry Spar

Suffice to say that over the past two-plus seasons, Tyler Zeller has had to be the most flexible member of the Celtics in terms of his minutes.

When he came to the Celtics in 2014, he appeared in every game, starting 59, and averaged 21.1 minutes. The following year he played in 60 games, starting three (which happened to be the first three games of the season), while averaging just 11.8 minutes per game.

But just four games into this season, he was not only called upon to start, but called upon to replace the Celtics’ biggest free agent signing in recent memory in Al Horford.

“It’s good. I started a lot two years ago, last year was a little weird, but just being able to come in, try and do as much as I can to help this team win,” Zeller said. “Play hard, rebound, defend, whatever I need to do, but really just try to fit in with these guys.”

Zeller played 24:45 minutes in the Celtics’ 107-100 win against the Bulls on Wednesday, going 5-for-11 from the field for 11 points. He grabbed four rebounds and managed a steal in the process as well.

The 26-year-old occasionally looked lost in the early going, especially against a Bulls team that dominated the Celtics on the glass 55-36 in their first meeting last Thursday. But he settled in, most notably throwing down a dunk over Robin Lopez — who had been dominating him on the glass for the most part — in transition.

The Celtics ultimately lost the rebounding battle 49-39, but it was a step in the right direction after getting dismantled a week prior.

Zeller did get some help, with Amir Johnson stepping out to the perimeter and shooting well, drawing defenders out and helping clear the lane offensively for his teammates.

Said Zeller: “A lot of guys like to sag off and guard him instead of me, so really it makes my job a lot easier, because when he starts hitting shots they’ve got to play him and respect him as a shooter. And that really opens the lane a lot.”

The play of Johnson and Zeller did not go unnoticed by Celtics coach Brad Stevens, who is going to have to rely on Zeller more for at least one more night with Horford out with a concussion.

“[Zeller and Johnson] did a really good job. Both those guys are good players,” Stevens said. “We talked about Tyler’s reliability off the bench, and you know one thing about Al: When he plays with Al, a lot of times he’s the roller and Al’s the guy that plays on the perimeter. And tonight Tyler was is the roller and [Johnson] is on the perimeter more.”

Blog Author: 
Logan Mullen