C’s Looking to Change Offensive Habits After Loss to Pacers

BOSTON – The Boston Celtics almost pulled off another stunning comeback win Friday night, but almost just wasn’t enough. Boston stormed back from a 26-point deficit against the Indiana Pacers and was able to take a one-point lead midway through the fourth quarter, but Indiana regained its footing down the stretch to hold off the C’s, 97-91.

Boston’s second-half fight was incredible, but that’s not what the players took away from Friday night’s performance. Instead, they lamented over their mediocre first-half effort while wondering how things could have turned out differently had they come out of the gate with more desire.

“We fought really hard to get back into the game,” said Jaylen Brown, who scored 16 points on 7-of-13 shooting. “But, it’s hard going on those crazy runs that we did to maintain that. And if we would’ve maintained it in the first half, we probably would’ve been in a better position towards the end of the game.”

The Celtics’ offense has tended to struggle during the first halves of games this season, which is a concerning trend regardless of how often they’ve been able to fight back in the end. Friday night was no different as they shot a woeful 29.2 percent from the field during the first half while putting up only 38 points to Indiana’s 59.

The reasoning behind the early offensive struggles is simple, according to Stevens.

“I would say that the biggest issue as a team is that we aren’t crisp,” explained the coach. “We don’t crisply do things on offense. We are probably more of a shortcut-taking team than we need to be, to be the best version of ourselves.”

There’s a long list of “shortcuts” that Stevens was alluding to. Fortunately, he believes all of them are correctable. And he will take it upon himself to begin fixing the issues.

“We have to get better at cutting,” Stevens said, as he began to list off the offensive troubles. “We have to get better at screening. We have to get to our spots quicker. We have to not take for granted every single cut. We have to get the ball where it needs to be. We’re just not as good (as we could be). And to me, that’s on me. And I’ve got to do a better job of holding us accountable to doing that. And so, I will do that.”

While Stevens plans to teach the Celtics better offensive habits, it will be the players’ collective responsibility to execute. And if they don’t change their early offensive tendencies, Kyrie Irving believes they will be in for a rude awakening come playoff time.

“It’s a little bit of foreshadowing,” said the All-Star point guard, who scored a team-high 21 points. “We understand – Brad understands, I understand, Al (Horford) understands, a few veterans on this team understand – what it’s going to take for us to reach that next level for what’s to come in the future that we’re going to face.

“In the regular season it’s a great test,” he added, “and teams are going to show us their hands a little bit and we’re going to have to make adjustments. But this is a time for us to really focus on what we have to do as a team to accomplish something bigger than ourselves.”

Irving understands that this is a young, inexperienced team that is still building on all levels, but he believes that the leaders of the team can help expedite the process.

“We’ve just got to be unwavering in our approach,” said Irving. “Our attention to detail just has to be that much better. It’s going to demand more from me, from Brad, from Al, the leaders on this team, to get everyone on the same page.”

Once they can accomplish that, the Celtics should experience an easier time putting together a full, 48-minute effort. And, if they can do that consistently, they won’t have to worry as much about battling back from early deficits.