The Boston Celtics have not gotten off to the start to the season that they had hoped, falling to 2-5 on Monday with an unbelievable collapse at home against the Bulls in which they saw a 19-point second half lead become a 14-point loss thanks to being outscored by Chicago 39-11 in the fourth quarter.
Offensive execution in the fourth quarter has been an issue in a few of their losses already, as they’ve struggled to establish much of an identity beyond hoping one of Jayson Tatum or Jaylen Brown can get hot and carry them down the stretch. Part of that is going to be on new coach Ime Udoka to install an offensive system that creates that identity and trust among all five players on the court, but it’s also incumbent on Tatum and Brown to be willing to give the ball up rather than trying to create 1-on-1 all the time.
After scoring just 11 against the Bulls, with both Tatum and Brown going cold late (particularly Tatum), Marcus Smart didn’t hold back about the late game issues and how it has to start with their two stars doing more for their teammates because they’ve become too predictable, via Chris Grenham of Forbes.
“I would just like to play basketball,” Smart said. “Every team knows we’re trying to go to Jayson and Jaylen. Every team is programmed and studied to stop Jayson and Jaylen. I think everybody’s scouting report is to make those guys pass the ball. They don’t want to pass the ball. That’s something that they’re going to learn. They’re still learning. We’re proud of the progress they’re making, but they’re going to have to make another step and find ways to not only create for themselves but create for others on this team to open up the court for them later down in the game where they’re always going to have to take those tough shots or take tough matchups when they do get the 1-on-1 or they bring the trap. It’s something we’ve been asking them to do and they’re learning. We just gotta continue to help those guys do that to help our team.”
Smart isn’t necessarily wrong here, but it is about as open and honest a critique as you’ll hear from a player about his teammates in a postgame situation. Brown and Tatum can slip into hero-ball mode and when that is going poorly and they don’t try to go to something else, that has to be frustrating as someone perched in the corner off the ball. Smart isn’t just airing them out, but noting that it’s part of the learning process for two players still growing into that starring role. Still, the frustration is apparent and it will be very interesting to see how the Celtics respond going forward, because things are trending in the wrong direction right now.
In the immediate, we won’t hear a response from Brown or Tatum, who both declined to talk after the loss.
Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown decline to talk after tonight’s collapse.
— Mark Murphy (@Murf56) November 2, 2021