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Must C’s: Gordon Hayward caught in-between on late layup miss

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Hayward not blaming sore foot for recent struggles, despite recent mention it could be a problem.

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NBA: Phoenix Suns at Boston Celtics Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

It’s fitting Marcus Smart broke the three-point record against the Suns. In the exact manner Devin Booker poured 70 points through the bucket at TD Garden while Phoenix lost by 10 in 2017, nobody was popping champaign bottles for Smart’s late three-pointers in a game the Celtics trailed by double-digits throughout.

Boston’s in a massive funk, and while Smart’s performance offered optimism about the offense’s capability down a few all-stars, the defense has lagged for almost one month.

There’s no easy fix, Tatum believes the effort is there and Stevens listed numerous fine details his group misses. Worse, Gordon Hayward’s play slid the last few nights and encapsulated in a perfect alley-oop into open space during a late charge that he got caught between on and botched.

See reaction from Stevens, Hayward and Tatum below — and click here for The Garden Report’s discussion on Hayward.

Brad Stevens: “There’s 50 things to do on a possession, right now we’re doing about 46 on our best ones.”

Booker’s brilliance against Boston forced Stevens to play his first box-and-one since his second season in the playoffs against the Cavaliers. They played it for 3-4 possessions as Booker flirted with a triple double and circled the Celtics’ perimeter guards for 39 points on 12-for-20 shooting. Along with Mikal Bridges and Deandre Ayton’s 26 points each, the defense faltered at every level.

“Our defensive system, we just need to be a little tighter and better with it. Everything. Everything. Every single angle you take on a pick-and-roll, how much you get into the body, how much you chase; when do you switch, how high are you as a big, when do you step back. How you guard a trail screen: do you trail it, do you go under it, do you meet him on a catch? It’s everything.”

Stevens has watched his team’s slow starts and seen everything from transition breakdowns and allowing the Bucks to get into early rhythm. He hoped Boston would play physically, into opponent’s bodies, but again surrendered open space for the Suns.

Gordon Hayward: “I just missed it.”

Hayward recently raised his foot as a possible ongoing concern, yet refutes it played into his 9-for-30 swoon. All critical eyes pointed toward him and his hefty contract even as he’s hovered around 50% shooting since returning from injury. His missed layup trailing by six enflamed the criticism after Boston’s sixth loss in eight games. He should’ve dunked Smart’s alley-oop, he said, and instead got caught in-between and off-balance as he flung the ball off the back of the rim. Stevens isn’t worried about him, pointing to his 11-for-15 performance against Detroit as proof he can succeed.

Jayson Tatum: “We’re playing hard, sometimes we just take shortcuts that don’t play within our system that leads to uncontested shots.”

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