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The roller-coaster ride that is the Boston Celtics’ 2017-18 season has been going downhill of later and after another 48-minute performance that resulted in a loss Friday night, the players spent almost as long talking about it amongst themselves.
After the Milwaukee Bucks came to TD Garden and left with a 120-107 loss, the Celtics kept their locker room closed for 36 minutes afterward to hold a team meeting after their third straight loss.
All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving termed the meeting, “much needed.”
“Much needed,” he told reporters, offering his State of the Celtics address. “I think everyone can see that we’ve obviously had some inconsistencies regarding our play, so I think it was just time to address it.”
After extending a winning streak to eight games with a victory over the Atlanta Hawks a week ago, Boston has regressed to the type of play that saw it get off to a meh 10-10 start to the season, one of which much was expected by most going in.
Irving, acquired by the Celtics from the Cleveland Cavaliers on Aug. 22, 2017 for three players and two draft picks, mentioned terms such as “cohesion” and mentioned “some selfish play” has found its way to Boston.
“At this point, it comes down to cohesion, being able to trust the pass, trust what we have going on out there,” Irving said. “Obviously, some selfish play out there where … we have some really talented guys, but we’re better as a team sharing the basketball. And if it’s late in the shot clock, that’s when we start shooting our iso plays, as opposed to if we have nothing in transition shooting with 16 or 17 on the clock or shooting a fadeaway, something like that.
“I get caught up in that as well. For me, it’s a hard challenge, because there’s a balance I have. I literally can do anything I want out there, but at the same time, it’s what can I do for my teammates to be more successful. I have to be very conscious of that.”
Since the win against Atlanta last week, Boston has bowed in Detroit last Saturday, 113-104, fell to bottom-feeding Phoenix, 113-101, on Wednesday night and found itself down by as many as 26 points to the Bucks on Friday night in a game the Celtics opened on a 10-1 run, only to be outscored by Milwaukee, 57-22, in the next 16:24 to trail by a 58-32 count.
Once again, as he has done several times during this season, Irving mentioned the Celtics’ youth for being part of the problem.
“I’m playing the game I love every day,” he said. “Sometimes, being in the journey there can be some dark spots going on, you’re challenged, you don’t know what to do, and that’s fine. I’ll be the first to admit I’ve dealt with my own challenges to be more consistent in the defensive end, do things for myself that would be more beneficial for our team. To be honest, I’m not playing the minutes I would want, the role I would want, that I selfishly would want for myself.
“That all goes on the back burner to being patient with what I have to do to grow as a leader of this team and help these other young guys to be more prepared for what they’ll encounter as they get older in this league and are going through right now. That’s part of the deal that I have, as opposed to how many shots I get or how successful I am. It’s how successful we are as a team.
“I want to make sure these guys are comfortable out there, and it’s more their success as much as mine. That’s an important thing — being consistent with that and patient with them.”
The Celtics have been hampered by injuries. They played without starting center Al Horford and starting power forward Marcus Morris on Friday night because of knee injuries. Backup big man Aron Baynes suffered a broken hand early in the loss to Phoenix on Wednesday night.
Irving admits the season, with Boston standing 18-13 and fifth in the Eastern Conference, 5.5 games behind Toronto, has not gone the way most expected, at least so far. Five games against teams with .500-or-better records loom to close out the 2018 portion of the schedule.
“I think that for us, sitting from where you guys are sitting, thinking that the offseason and thinking that we all like are together 24/7, we all just are supposed to come together as human beings coming to play the game we love,” he said. “It’s a lot easier said than done in terms of building a championship team or even having aspirations to be on that championship stage, and it starts with our habits, it starts with our preparation, how we go about treating each other and going out there and putting on a great performance every single night regardless of whether the ball is going in the rim or not.
“It’s just trusting one another. So that’s an everyday thing. I know everyone would like to think like, ‘Hey, what’s going on?’ It’s just not easy. It’s an everyday job. I’ve been saying it since the beginning of the season. It’s not going to look pretty. It’s not going to look great at all times. But the biggest thing for me is just patience and also being honest with one another about how we feel and being able to talk to one another without anybody talking it personal.”