C's Address Early-Game Woes, Remain Positive

WALTHAM, Mass. – It’s been a tale of two halves for the Boston Celtics during their last two games. They’ve had two straight sluggish starts followed by two energetic races to the finish, but have come up just short both times.

As evidenced by those losses to the San Antonio Spurs and the Indiana Pacers, it’s difficult to win basketball games if you don’t start well.

Celtics coach Brad Stevens held a quick 30-minute practice Thursday afternoon, hours after returning from Indianapolis, and focused on dissecting Boston’s early-game woes.

“We’ve got to get tighten our first halves,” Stevens concluded. “Our first halves have been poor. We’ve turned the ball over and we have not gotten the same level of looks with the same amount of purpose that we have in the second.”

He had his guys hit the film room on Thursday, and from that session Jared Sullinger said, “We realized our offense in the first half is nowhere near as good as our offense in the second half, and that’s a result of us moving the ball in the first half,” said Sullinger. “We’ve got to move the ball.”

Marcus Smart, who sat out of Wednesday’s game as he rested a sprained toe, says the C's not only have to do a better job moving the ball, but must also maintain possession. He said their first-half turnover tendencies are coming back to bite them in the end.

“Those turnovers cost us,” said Smart. “We’ve gotta crisp things up, and it starts with the pace. You set the tone early with how you run your offense and if it’s sloppy throughout the game, your game’s going to be sloppy.”

Not being able to set the tone early has resulted in a difficult start for the C’s, but none of the guys are concerned heading forward. They understand they’re still mixing and matching lineups, they’re still growing accustomed to each others’ games, and their shots are bound to start falling.

“We have a lot to improve and those areas are going to improve,” said Smart. “We just gotta keep working, those shots are going to fall, you just gotta keep shooting and don’t let our confidence get too low.”

Boston is currently shooting just 40.2 percent from the field, which ranks 28th in the league, but rookie R.J. Hunter emphasized, “It’s early ... I think guys either make a lot of shots early or miss ‘em. It’s either one or the other, so law of averages: These guys are [going to] start making shots.”

Sullinger agreed, saying, “It’s only four games in and we’ve got 78 more to go. We’re not really rushing, we’re not really worried about anything. We’re just going to move forward.”

Their next step forward will take place Friday night, when they host a 3-1 Wizards squad, who have allowed opponents to shoot 45 percent against them through four games.

Injured Smart, Johnson Miss Practice

Marcus Smart missed Wednesday’s game in Indiana with a sprained left big toe, and continued to rest up Thursday afternoon when his teammates hit the court for practice.

Smart says he has no idea how the injury occurred, but he believes he will be back in action soon.

“I’m feeling a little bit better,” said Smart. “Better than what I was [feeling] Tuesday , so that’s a good sign.

“If I’m ready to go Friday then I’m gonna go. But if not, it’s early in the season so I’m not going to try to force anything and hopefully get me out there for Wednesday’s game.”

The C’s are also hoping for a speedy recovery for Amir Johnson, who twisted his right ankle against the Pacers.

Stevens called Johnson’s injury "day-to-day," and said he has a 50-50 chance of suiting up Friday against Washington.