Celtics hold team meeting after 120-107 loss to the Bucks

Friday's game was the team's third straight loss.

Kyrie Irving, Giannis Antetokounmpo
Kyrie Irving shoots against Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo. AP Photo/Elise Amendola

Something was up after Friday night’s Celtics-Bucks game. 

Thirty-plus minutes after the final buzzer sounded, Boston’s locker room was still not open to media. Coach Brad Stevens had addressed reporters, but players were not yet available to discuss their showing against Milwaukee — one that featured the group’s largest deficit (26) of the season and resulted in a 120-107 loss.

So, what was responsible for the delay?

A talk, coaches included, about the recent struggles.

“It was just the team trying to get on the same page, get everything together,” said forward Jaylen Brown, who tallied 21 points in the losing effort. “We’re trying to do something special and make sure we’re all clicking on the same cylinders.”


Just when things appeared to be trending upward with their eight-game win streak, the Celtics revitalized the discussion about their early-season issues Friday by dropping their third straight contest. During this most recent stretch of losses, the team’s point-differential is minus-30 points and their net rating (-9.9) ranks in the bottom five of the league. A trio of injuries certainly has hurt them — Aron Baynes broke his hand, Al Horford continues to nurse patellofemoral pain syndrome, and Marcus Morris is battling right knee soreness — but inconsistent play and lackluster effort seemingly have done more damage.

“We got to play to a certain level and we haven’t been playing to that level, so we got to talk,” Brown said. “Today was the time we chose to talk. I’ll keep the confinements of what we talked about between us, but we got to do better.”

Because players were reluctant to divulge the details of the meeting, it’s unknown who initiated the conversation, who contributed, what was confronted, and how the messages were communicated.

“It’s just something that we’re supposed to keep in the locker room,” forward Jayson Tatum said. “It’s not for everybody to know what we talked about.”


All agreed, however, the session was much needed for the team to progress in the right direction. The Celtics have a number of tough tests on the horizon, starting with the Philadelphia 76ers on Christmas Day. One discussion isn’t going to suddenly make everything copacetic — as Brown noted, the team might need “a few more” — though openly acknowledging shortcomings should, in theory, only help.

“I know everybody would like to think, ‘Hey, what’s going on?’ but it’s just not easy,” point guard Kyrie Irving said. “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 — also just being honest with one another about how we feel and being able to talk to one another without taking it personally.”

Although he was quick to classify the meeting as private, Irving, who has not been afraid to call out the team’s inefficient and uninspiring play this season, still shed light on something specific that’s been bugging him: “selfish play.”

“We have some really talented guys, but we’re better as a team sharing the basketball,” Irving said. “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.”


The biggest thing the Celtics are missing, according to him, is “consistent cohesion.” Irving admitted even he is not completely satisfied with his role on the team, but he’s working to put personal interests aside for the collective mission.

“I literally can do anything I want out there any time I want,” he said. “But at the same time, it’s what can I do for my teammates to be more successful?”

As for what should be expected of the team moving forward?

The 18-13 Celtics aren’t backing down from their goal of an NBA title, with hopes of playing their best basketball in the remaining 49 regular-season games. Having already completed almost 40 percent of their schedule, they are 5½ games back of the first-place Toronto Raptors. 

“We just got to play harder,” Tatum said. “The last games, I don’t think we played as hard as we did in the previous eight when we were winning. Playing hard usually translates to winning, so we just got to do that.”