7:55 PM ET.
Celtics guard Marcus Smart said after Friday night’s loss against the Sacramento Kings – Boston’s fourth loss in five games to open the second half of the regular season – that the Celtics held a team meeting to try to right themselves and turn this disappointing campaign around before it was too late.
We were just sitting in the locker room thinking about each other, Smart said after the Celtics responded with a 112-96 win over the Orlando Magic on Sunday at the Boston Garden TD. We wondered, as I said: How do we want to end the season? How do we want to be remembered this season? Everyone agreed, it was a bad feeling and a horrible feeling that we feel this way and don’t want to feel that way.
We don’t want to look back on this season and say: Damn, we can do that. We still have time. It’s not much, the margin for that is getting smaller, but we still have time to correct that and we are trying to do that.
After disappointing defeats against the Cleveland Cavaliers and Kings in their last two games, Boston looked more like the team it should have been on Sunday, controlling the game throughout the second half. Boston shot 23-of-54 from 3-point range, including a Jalen Brown who shot 10-of-18 and scored 34 points, while the Magic shot 38 percent hitting.
Boston’s tumultuous season ended in a tie with the New York Knicks for sixth place in the shortened Eastern Conference standings. The Celtics are just one game behind the fourth-ranked Atlanta Hawks and 3.5 behind the 11th-ranked Toronto Raptors, which shows how much things can change for the better or worse in a few games, depending on how the team plays.
With five healthy players gone for the first time this season and having played together for a long time, the Celtics hope to get things under control now that they’ve played close to 500 all season – well below the standard they’ve set for themselves in recent years, having reached the Eastern Conference Finals three of the last four years.
We focused on what we want to accomplish this season, what we want to put behind us this season, Smart said. There is still plenty of time to turn things around, and it depends on all of us. We sat down and realized that we were not playing to the standards we expected and others expected of us. We are a young team and we are still learning. The most important aspect of growth is to understand and accept the gaps where you make mistakes – in yourself, individually and as a team.
The conversations we had, we did. We just tried to sit down and try to understand and listen to others to help – not ourselves, but to help the team, to help others and to help everyone. We tried to put everyone in the right position to succeed, and we showed that tonight, and that’s how we need to continue.
Boston can see if there is a transfer Monday in Memphis, where the Celtics begin a four-game road trip played Wednesday and Friday in Milwaukee against the Bucks.
It will help them if the Celtics can keep shooting like they did Sunday – including Brown, who stayed one game away from Smart’s franchise record of 11 three-pointers in one game.
However, Brown said it’s important for the Celtics to not only take their chances, but also shake off the bad taste of the last few games before they go back and try to keep their momentum going.
This is a big step for us, Brown said. We had a little spark. Coming here is an early game, a little different from our routine – coming here and getting a good, comfortable win is just good for our morale. We know we have failed, and we are under additional pressure from everyone, from all outside forces.
So I told our guys to focus on us. Forget what the media says, forget what the fans say, go out there and play good basketball, see where the dice are rolled, and hopefully we can do more – a lot more – before the season is over.