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Marcus Smart: Celtics need to learn from mistakes and ‘move on’

The Boston Celtics had a strong start against Chicago, but fell apart as offensive struggles and officiating impacted their defensive efforts.

Boston Celtics v Chicago Bulls Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

After their three-game win streak to start the season, the Boston Celtics came crashing back to earth in their final game of their road trip against the Chicago Bulls. After coming out hot from the start with 39 first quarter points on 8-of-10 shooting from deep, Boston finished the game 18-of-48 from beyond the arc and were outscored the rest of the way 90 to 63. The Bulls dominated on the glass as well, outrebounding the Celtics 60 to 45, specifically on the defensive boards where Chicago had the competitive edge, 46 to 31.

Many of the defensive concerns Boston has dealt with so far this early in the season came to a head against another gifted offensive team, and the margin of error was too narrow for the Celtics to overcome. The team wore its frustration on its sleeve, as tensions with the officiating led to eight technical fouls and the ejection of Head Coach Joe Mazzulla as well as Grant Williams. Chicago had 29 free throw attempts to Boston’s 12, and the Celtics let foul calls entirely dictate how they played in their first loss of the season.

On Joe Mazzulla’s ejection and the officiating, Marcus Smart said, “I think it was worth it. it was the way the game was just being called tonight. It was a little antsy for everybody, so emotions were high on both ends. So, I understand it. It is what it is. It’s his first one, everybody gets one. It was a good test for us tonight, and we learned from it.”

Despite Boston’s early success, it’s still important to keep in mind there’s a new coach at the helm, and while there’s plenty of continuity among the main players on the squad, there’s bound to be some growing pains as they incorporate changes and adapt to situations.

The Celtics offense is starting to find a whole new gear, but their defense and rebound continues to be a cause for concern, and one that they’ll have to correct while they await the return of Robert Williams. His absence however still doesn’t explain why Boston’s offense evaporated after building an early 19-point lead right out of the gate.

“To be honest, I don’t know,” said Smart on Boston squandering their early lead in the first quarter. “(We) took our foot off the gas, I guess, and they started making shots, we started missing shots and I guess it started to affect us on the defensive end, and we can’t have that. No matter whether we make a shot or not, we’ve got to stay consistent on our defensive end and we’ve got to help each other out. So, something we’ve got to get back to, got to get back in Lab, look at the video, and move on.”

Celtics star Jayson Tatum echoed his teammate’s sentiments. “I think we kind of let our offense dictate our defense. We were getting great looks in the 2nd quarter, we were missing a lot of shots, and it was kind of a snowball effect tonight, honestly. That’s what it felt like.”

Beyond the frustrations with officials, the Celtics have also let offensive struggles derail their defense in the past. A shot doesn’t fall, shoulders slump, and the team’s defense can suffer greatly because of it. Monday’s loss was a painful reminder to this group of old habits dying hard, and Smart was quick to address it.

“Yeah, I think every team thinks they’re past it,” said Smart. “But we’re human. They’re habits. (We) just try to minimize them as much as you can, not have too many of them, and move on. This is a good test for us, and we just got to respond.”

The Celtics will have a few days off between now and their next game on Friday against the Cleveland Cavaliers at TD Garden. Let’s see how they approach the matchup with some time to adjust and reinforce their defensive principles against another challenging team in the Eastern Conference.

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