More accountability, amped-up effort fueling Celtics' success


BOSTON - If you take a peek at the Celtics sideline in timeouts or other stoppages of play, you’ll see more animated conversations between players than ever. 

Sometimes, the conversation will spill onto the floor in dead-ball situations or just before the whistle blows to resume play.

While, at times, it appears to be building toward contentious talk that's teetering on boiling over into something bigger, it soon becomes clear what’s happening. 


The Celtics have learned that while respecting your teammate is important, that doesn’t mean you can’t go to them and put the problem out there, in the moment, when they do something wrong. 

“There’s a responsibility that we all have,” said Kyrie Irving. “There’s a certain level that we all need to play at. If you’re not playing at it, it’s pretty clear you’re not. And we’re going to call you out. 

“That’s the type of environment you want to be part of," Irving added. "Why wouldn’t you want to compete at both ends of the floor at a very high level? What’s stopping you? Literally, what’s stopping you from going balls out? You have no excuse.”

Inserting Marcus Morris and Marcus Smart into the starting lineup amped up the effort, intensity and edgy play of the first group.

It also brought about a more balanced first and second unit.

Morris and Smart provide strong two-way play, while Gordon Hayward and Jaylen Brown improve the reserve unit’s scoring punch in addition to creating on many nights a pair of mismatches in Boston’s favor in the second quarter and the start of the fourth, which is when the reserves usually play. 

Boston has also found itself in a familiar position of being without key players due to injuries or illnesses.

Handling adversity is among the silver linings the Celtics can take away from their recent run of success despite being shorthanded. 

Still, it has also afforded coach Brad Stevens a chance to take a longer look at some player combinations that - had he had a full complement of players - he may not have opted to play as much together. 

“I guess it’s always beneficial,” said Stevens, referring to taking longer looks at different combinations. 

But he quickly added, “I’d like to see our whole group [healthy] but obviously it’s going to be at least a few games. But in the meantime, we’ve been ‘next guy steps up‘...We’re going to give all those guys an opportunity to play.”

Recognize, embrace and taking advantage of opportunities.

That has also been a key component in the Celtics' eight-game winning streak.

But the formula for success is only good if it can be replicated over and over again, which is why their focus now is geared towards consistency.

“We can’t take teams for granted,” said Semi Ojeleye. “If we mentally lock in, we’ll be fine.”

It’s about having a standard of excellence for themselves that such supersede anyone else’s thoughts.

“We don’t want to be mediocre at all, just keep pushing the needle every single game,” Irving said. “And show why we want to be the best team.”

And if a Celtic isn’t doing his part, no worries. 

They’ll get called out soon enough. 


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