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‘That’s a slap across Brad’s face’: Boston Celtics’ Marcus Smart upset about team’s defense

SALT LAKE CITY — Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart is tired of seeing the type of individual offensive performances Boston has been surrendering on this road trip.

Victor Oladipo killed the Celtics with a buzzer-beating triple in Indiana. Jamal Murray burned them for a career-high 48 points and a win. Devin Booker nearly hoisted the Suns to a win. And on Friday, Joe Ingles escaped Boston’s defense repeatedly in the first half, pouring in 20 points in two quarters before finishing with 27. 

Ingles’ explosion was part of a stretch that allowed the Jazz to build a 20-point lead. The Celtics rallied, but Utah had too much firepower down the stretch and finished with a 123-115 victory.

“We have a lot of guys, they can score the ball in the offensive end, but you have to play defense as well,” Smart said. “It’s one thing to out-score your opponent, but another to stop them from scoring as well. Right now we’re not out-scoring our opponents, so you have to stop them. The day we decide we’ve had enough and own up, and hold our ground one-on-one and team defense, we’re going to continue getting hit in the mouth.”

Smart said the problems are partly schematic.

“We’re letting guys that we know are going to do certain things do those things,” Smart said. “That’s a slap across Brad (Stevens)’s face and this coaching staff that spends countless hours countless days preparing us and giving us the tools that we need to go out there and cut that off. Like I said, until we decide as a team and as individuals that we are going to stand our own, we are going to continue to keep getting hit in the mouth.”

For his part, Stevens didn’t sound as upset as Smart. While the Celtics let go of the rope briefly between the second and third quarters, Stevens said he liked what he saw in the interim.

“Those 12-0 runs in the first, then they had another in the second half, then another one to start the third, you just can’t have those,” Stevens said. “Puts you in too big of a hole. Otherwise, we played pretty well. It’s tough to beat a good team if you play 36 minutes of good basketball. I’m encouraged. I think we did a lot of good things tonight. I think we can get a lot better. We played a really good team that was playing well.”

If the Celtics start putting together 48-minute games, and if their moments of offensive and defensive brilliance begin lining up, they could be really good. But as Smart said, those moments are yet to materialize, and the season is 11 games old.

“I mean at this point, gradually is out the window,” Smart said. “We’re in it. Everybody has been here. The same guys that have been here last year. It’s time for guys as a team to own up and take that ownership. We’re the ones out there, so we’ve got to figure it out. That’s the problem. We just ain’t figured it out.”

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