Bradley Beal (left) led the Wizards to a big win over Marcus Smart and the Celtics on Tuesday night. (Brad Mills/USA Today Sports)
It took until the fourth quarter for a Celtics player to finally put up a fight during Tuesday’s embarrassing loss to the Wizards.
The problem is, Marcus Smart was fighting with his own coaches.
The emotional guard jawed with no fewer than four Celtics assistants during a late-game timeout before apparently being dismissed from the team huddle by head coach Brad Stevens. He then was escorted to the locker room by teammate Amir Johnson.
Smart missed the closing seconds of his team’s 123-108 humiliation to a Washington team that approached this game like it was the playoffs (game recap here). The Wizards dressed in all black before the game and then buried the Celtics in an avalanche of jumpers and dunks. Washington shot 57.8 percent from the field and had its way with a Celtics defense that has struggled all season.
But first, the Smart incident.
“He just wanted to go back in,” Stevens said in his postgame press conference, although it clearly was much more than that, as Smart was chewed out by one assistant after another before departing. “He had played 12 minutes or whatever, and so he wasn’t going to back in. He wanted to go back in. … He wanted to go back in badly.”
Smart also downplayed the incident to reporters.
“Coaches and players, they’re real passionate about the game, hate losing, having different opinions and things about certain things on the bench,” he said, adding: “Of course I wanted to go back in. Just like everybody else, to play it out. Give it everything they have, leave it on the court. We had different opinions on that.”
Added Smart: “As a competitor, a lot of frustration. You hate losing regardless. I think everybody on this team hates losing. Everybody on this team knows I hate losing, and how much I hate losing. So it was a lot of frustration.”
Smart was powerless to slow down the Washington backcourt of Bradley Beal and John Wall. Beal led the onslaught with 31 points on 12-of-18 shooting, Wall had 27 points, seven rebounds, seven assists and three steals as the Wizards won for the ninth time in 11 games — and four the 14th straight time at home.
The Wizards scored 33 points in each of the first two quarters. And while the Celtics hung around until the closing minutes, they never proved capable of slowing down Washington’s attack for any length of time.
“[Beal and Wall] were really good, but we just don’t have enough impact on the ball,” Stevens said. “That’s the bottom line. We just don’t impact the ball enough. I think that that’s something that has been a strength of ours at times in the past. But for whatever reason we’re not doing that enough.”
Added Stevens: “Obviously we’re missing a guy [injured guard Avery Bradley] that does it really well. But I think that we’ve got guys that should be able to do it better. And there’s varying degrees of how they’re doing it, guy to guy.”
Smart might not have been on the same page with his coach in the fourth-quarter huddle, but he agreed with Stevens’ analysis of the defensive woes.
“We need to get in guys. We need to make guys feel us,” Smart said. “We’re playing off guys and they’re feeling real comfortable. He’s right. He’s definitely right about that. That’s one thing about where I say last year guys didn’t want to play us because we were impacting the ball, we were into guys and we were making it really hard on guys. … Everyone, from me down to our bigs to our guards, everybody. We’ve got to get up into guys and really make them uncomfortable.”
Said teammate Jae Crowder: “They got whatever they wanted on the offensive end. Defensively we didn’t even do not even half of our game plan, what we wanted to do. … We’re not playing together. Every guy’s on an island. We don’t help one another. We don’t talk enough to be an elite defensive unit. We’re got to get back to those things.”
Smart lent some credence to the theory that the Celtics’ improved offense has taken a toll at the other end.
“We feel like because we are scoring a little more we feel like we’re just going to score the ball and we’re going to outscore teams, and our defense has slipped from it,” he said. “We know, we understand that we have to change it before April comes.”