The Celtics have been riding high for a while. Before Wednesday’s game, their last loss was in Brooklyn in the second game of a home-and-home series which sandwiched Thanksgiving Day. It didn’t exactly have the same vibe as Wednesday’s matchup with the Pacers, who remain one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference, even though they’re still without Victor Oladipo.
And that’s where things start for the Celtics.
Brad Stevens has plenty of switchable wings on defense, but the post has been Boston’s problem from Day 1. Trade season is right around the corner and this is the one area they need to address.
Because, as much as he’s done well, when Smart is a guy you’re relying on to guard bigs, it’s a problem.
He protects the rim by playing tough defense on the perimeter and taking charges. Being able to handle a big in the block is a bonus, not something that should be expected.
Williams is much improved and Stevens has done well with identifying which big is providing the greatest impact on a nightly basis. But there isn’t one player between Williams, Daniel Theis and Enes Kanter who the Celtics can expect to consistently be “the guy” down low.
“That was just a dumb play by me,” Brown said. “Good play by Brogdon. Smart play by him. Just a dumb play by me.
“I think (the Pacers) set the tone for the game. They were a physical team and we didn’t match it, and we were trying to play from behind. And then the refs were just calling the game accordingly. We got to do a better job of setting the tone (and) physicality.”
Brown played very well, there’s no doubt about that (18 points, 58% shooting, eight rebounds and eight assists). But tough opponents — especially when you’re playing well — are going to do anything to get you off your rhythm. He has to recognize that, because he has a target on his back now. Brown isn’t some well-kept secret anymore.
Jayson Tatum’s 4-for-13 night (2-for-8) from three, of course, wasn’t helpful. But it’s the same stuff with him. Some nights, Tatum can’t find his shot. He’s usually good for a missed layup or two (or more). He’s there some games, and others he’s not.
More than anything, this loss should show the Celtics good, well-coached teams are going to make life immensely difficult. Being able to hang with the Clippers and beat both the Heat and Nuggets recently doesn’t mean the Celtics are going to coast against other good teams simply because Boston is a few spots ahead in the standings.