The Boston Celtics were completely outplayed last night in a 123-107 loss at home to the Denver Nuggets. Coach Brad Stevens likened the C's play to that of a "finesse team" - not playing with enough physicality to dominate on the defensive end. Right from the jump last night they were manhandled by a very physical Nuggets team, and in particular 2nd-year guard Emmanuel Mudiay:
Mudiay's points in the FIRST QUARTER: 🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥!— Denver Nuggets (@nuggets) November 7, 2016
(That's 24, a season-high.)#Nuggets 42 - Celtics 23.
You read that right, 24 points in the 1st quarter. Stevens was most upset that 4 of those points came on put-backs from a point guard, Via Jay King of MassLive:
"But it starts with holding your ground physically. (Emmanuel) Mudiay goes nuts, that's fine. But Mudiay also gets two putbacks, or at least one putback early, that gets you going. It makes you feel good about yourself to see the ball go through the nets, it's an easy basket. Now you hit a couple of the tougher ones. But we brought a little bit of aggressiveness at the start of the third quarter, but that wasn't sustainable. So I don't know. I don't have the answer. Obviously we've got some guys that aren't playing that will play. (Jae Crowder, Al Horford and Kelly Olynyk all missed the game due to injury.) But this is about holding your ground."
Although clearly frustrated with the level of intensity coming from his guys, Stevens also holds himself to a higher standard as well. After watching his team's performance over the past week, he's noticed a change in the way his normally aggressive defense has played. He knew going into the game that this matchup with Denver was going to be an issue:
"I thought, looking at film, this could be bad for us," Stevens said after the loss. "And the reason I thought that is because -- the nicest way I can say this is I think we play like a finesse team, and they play physical. So I kind of saw that right out of the gate. You know, they were getting where they wanted to on their drives. I thought the (Danilo) Gallinari dunk was a great example of that. I thought Kenneth Faried diving on the floor at 3:57 left in the fourth quarter was a great example of that. That's who we've been the last week."
"I told the players it's my fault because I played -- I watched us play this way," Stevens said. "And you can't do that. But, bottom line is when you have a spot you have to hold it. When you have a spot you have to take it. And we're not. So whether it's changing who plays, whether it's creating a new scheme, whether it's subbing differently -- whatever the case may be, we just have to figure it out."
Although I understand and appreciate Stevens sentiment in taking some of the blame here, the dumpster fire we watched in the Garden last night was totally on the players. Not exactly sure what Stevens could have done differently in terms of changing up who was on the floor. He was without two of his best players/defenders, and the guys he did have were pushed around easily - Marcus Smart aside, who was his usual pit bull self hounding the ball on defense.
Denver was on the 2nd night of a back-to-back and the C's had two days off leading into the game, so we can't blame tired legs on our end. Sure it's one game, but the Celtics have only held their opponent under 100 points twice in 6 games this season, and for a team that came into the season wanting to be a staunch defense that's not gonna cut it. According to Basketball Reference, the C's are 29th in the league in defensive rating - that's points allowed per 100 possessions - at 114.58. Awful.
They'll be better with Al Horford (returning Wednesday) and Jae Crowder back in the lineup soon, but hopefully this poor effort will ignite some fire under the rest of the guys as well.
Here's Stevens full presser from last night where he addresses all the issues he saw in the game:
Photo Credit - Celtics.com
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Mark Allison 11/07/2016 12:13:00 PM Tweet Edit