Let me present the evidence before editorializing (because that’s what should have happened with the tweet):
Marcus Smart is screaming in the #Celtics locker room and there is a bunch of arguing going on. Smart comes out say “y’all on that bullshit!” Team is imploding. Smart is in bathroom and there is still screaming coming from locker room.— gary washburn (@GwashburnGlobe) September 18, 2020
Everything about this tweet is fine except the “team is imploding” line. The Boston Celtics choked a tough game away, and there were frustrations in the locker room after the game. I would be more concerned if the Celtics weren’t upset. Being calm and leveled after every bump in the road is good in many circumstances, but if you go down 0-2 with a trip to the NBA Finals on the line, you need to show some fire.
I’m paraphrasing Doc Rivers heavily, but the Boston Celtics showed up to this game expecting to just be the Boston Celtics and that’s all they had to do. They played cool. Once they had the lead, they squandered it just like they’ve done four times now this postseason. The talk of media tomorrow and Saturday morning should be about what the Celtics should do to try to overcome Miami’s zone defense, how they can keep up their intensity when building a double-digit lead, and how Kemba Walker getting it going is a great sign for the team.
Instead, we’ll be talking about how the “team is imploding.”
I know you’re probably thinking, “why are you making this a big deal,” but it really is. Just report the news; don’t editorialize. Here’s a good example:
There were loud clanks — like someone throwing items — coming from the Celtics’ locker room. https://t.co/0D9SokSr5u— Malika Andrews (@malika_andrews) September 18, 2020
It’s a heated locker room exchange. It happens all the time. It should happen after a game when Boston gave up two breakaway layups off of lazy passes down the stretch and Bam Adebayo got an uncontested offensive rebound with under a minute to go. Yeah, they should be upset. They should be emotional.
But imploding? Come on.
Kemba Walker in his postgame availability: “It was nothing.”
In the Bubble, players have fewer ways to escape the media circus, and igniting and directing conversation in that way just exacerbates and over-dramatizes something that should have happened. There’s not a single Celtics fan who, after watching that lackluster effort, should be happy with how the Celtics got out-efforted at every turn tonight. We should all be happy that Marcus Smart is upset and throwing things (at least he’s not punching picture frames).
Jayson Tatum had perhaps the best response to the postgame shenanigans (which absolutely should not be the focus right now):
Jayson Tatum on the locker room: "I don't know who said that (it was emotional). We're 0-2. You aren't supposed to be happy down 2. Nothing out of the ordinary. Just talking about the game."— Keith Smith (@KeithSmithNBA) September 18, 2020
When the Celtics played with intensity and locked in defensively in the second quarter, the team looked amazing. They took their foot off the gas, and they need something to spark them into being able to motivate themselves. This was not an implosion. This was indeed a spark.
Jaylen Brown echoed those statements with his postgame soundbites:
Jaylen Brown: "We embrace each other for who we are. Who Marcus is...I love him for it. We gotta get ready to come back with that same fire for Game 3."— Keith Smith (@KeithSmithNBA) September 18, 2020
The Celtics need a lot more emotion if they want to avoid going down 0-3 on Saturday night. Oh, and maybe Gordon Hayward too.
Boston will look to avoid the 0-3 hole against the Miami Heat on Saturday in Game 3. Let’s hope the fire from the locker room tonight extends from tipoff to the final buzzer.
UPDATE: Per The Athletic’s Shams Charania, the locker room altercation centered around Marcus Smart and Jaylen Brown:
Sources told The Athletic that Smart stormed into the Celtics postgame locker room saying that other players needed to be held accountable and not simply point the finger toward him when things are going wrong. As Smart continued and his voice grew louder, sources said Brown snapped back and shouted that Celtics players must stay together and that their actions must come as a team, not individually, and that Smart needed to cool off. Those sources added Smart had verbal exchanges with a couple of the assistant coaches during the game.
Charania reports that Smart and Brown have since made amends.
UPDATE: Per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, after Marcus Smart’s blow up in the locker room, Brad Stevens brought together the team’s current core four (minus the injured Gordon Hayward) for a late night meeting to clear the air:
Stevens met with Jayson Tatum, Kemba Walker, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart starting around 1 a.m. ET, and he let those players talk through the issues that had led to significant yelling and outbursts in the postgame locker room, sources said.
Among the coaching staff and players, there was a belief that players had sufficiently talked through the issues and were ready to start preparing for Game 3 on Saturday, sources said.
Per Woj’s sources, the conflict never escalated to a physical confrontation and Smart left to cool down.