Marcus Smart gave his team an earful in the locker room Sunday night.
“I hate losing. I probably hate losing more than I love winning,” Smart said to NBC Sports after Tuesday’s practice. “Especially with the team that we have and the potential that we have, we shouldn’t be losing games that we know we should win. Let alone, getting down 20 early and putting more pressure on ourselves and more stress on ourselves to come back.”
The Celtics lost to the Trail Blazers 100-94 on Sunday, closing out their five-game road trip at 1-4. Smart, one of Boston’s longest tenured players, was understandably upset with his team’s performance in recent games and held his teammates accountable in an emotional locker room speech after Sunday’s disappointing loss.
Al Horford says that after the game in the locker room, Marcus Smart addressed the team and said, “There’s no more excuses.”
— Marc D’Amico (@Marc_DAmico) November 12, 2018
“We can’t be OK with being fighters,” Smart said to Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports, explaining what he said to his teammates. “Brad [Stevens] came in and he gave us the whole speech about, ‘You know you guys are fighters, you’re resilient,’ for us to keep coming back down 20. But, as a team, I just felt like we shouldn’t even accept being down 20 and having to fight to come back. And there’s only so much that Brad and the coaching staff can do. … We cannot be OK with that. We have to look ourselves in the mirror, look at one another, hold each other accountable, and figure out what’s going on.”
Smart’s words seemed to have struck a chord with his teammates.
“Smarty is an emotional guy,” forward Marcus Morris told Adam Himmelsbach of the Boston Globe following Sunday’s loss. “What he said was real. He said we’ve got to fix this s***. He said, ‘It’s not OK. It’s not OK. We need to fix it.’ And I agree with him, 100 percent.”
Head coach Brad Stevens agrees with Smart’s notion that the Celtics need to be more accountable, telling members of the media “[it] starts with me; I’ve got to do a better job, and I will.” Stevens also shouldered his share of the blame for his team’s most recent yet forgettable outing.
“When we’re desperate and urgent we’re pretty good,” Stevens said after Tuesday’s practice. “We’ve got to do a better job, and I’ve got to do a better job of making sure we start games that way. … We just don’t hunt great on offense until it’s desperation time. And we spent a lot of time in desperation time on this trip, it’s been a disappointing trip. … We’re not a well-coached team right now. It’s pretty obvious.”
Although he took some of the heat off of his players, Smart doesn’t think that the team’s abysmal performance is solely the fault of their coaching staff.
“Brad’s going to [take the blame] because Brad’s a great coach,” Smart said. “Any great coach is going to see what he can do better — that’s what a leader does and Brad is the leader of this team. Everything he feels is going to fall on him. At the same time, he’s not out there playing. We are. So at some point, as a team, we gotta step up and we gotta cover Brad’s ass just like he covers ours by putting us in the right positions. We gotta go out there and give him that sign of respect by bringing everything we’ve got every night and playing our ass off.”
The Celtics’ four-game win streak was cut short by the Indiana Pacers, who handed the Celtics a 102-101 loss at the first stop of their five-game stint on-the-road. Returning home for a three-game stretch, Smart’s words of wisdom will be put to the test Wednesday night as the 7-6 Celtics host the 4-10 Chicago Bulls.
“We’re no longer the hunter,” Smart said. “We’re the hunted now. Everybody is coming after us, everybody sees and reads what’s been said and what we’ve done. And, rightfully so as competitors, they take it as a disrespect to them, they want to go out and prove what they can do, so we’re going to get everybody’s best game. And if we’re not expecting that then, we’re going to continue to keep going into these deficits and getting our ass kicked.”