Isaiah Thomas was surrounded by reporters, shirtless and draped in a red towel in the visitor’s locker room of the Verizon Center. The tone in his voice said more than the words he spoke.
The Celtics had just fallen to 3-4, losing their third straight game, and their second straight in wire-to-wire fashion. The hip-hop that had been blasting in the room an hour before tip-off was gone, and for those who were talking, it was in hushed tones.
“It’s frustrating. We’re in a bad funk right now,” Thomas said. “We’re not the hardest playing team anymore. That’s what made us special, that’s what made us good: us playing harder than the other team. Being scrappier. Getting loose balls. Rebounds don’t come to us because we’re not playing hard.”
Boston’s defensive effort was highly suspect in Sunday night’s loss to the Denver Nuggets at TD Garden (they gave up 77 points in the first half), and on Wednesday, their offense failed them early as well. They spotted the Wizards a 34-8 lead through the first quarter, and never put together enough stops to get closer than 15 points after halftime.
A 4-for-22 first quarter allowed Washington to pull ahead, uncharacteristic of a Celtics team that was leading the NBA in field goal percentage (48 percent) coming into the game.
Outside of a few dominant minutes from Marcus Smart, there wasn’t much to celebrate during Wednesdays 118-93 loss to the Washington Wizards, a team with just one win to its name beforehand. When asked about Smart’s offensive spurt during the third quarter, during which he scored 18 of his 20 points on the night, Celtics coach Brad Stevens delivered a Belichickian comment: “I think he is appropriately aggressive on that end.”
Stevens didn’t say that the Celtics needed to be better in all phases of the game, and he didn’t repeat that it was on to New York, but he was brief with his postgame comments. The Celtics have rarely been blown out from start to finish under Stevens’ leadership, and losing two games in a row in such fashion had been unthinkable.
Stevens did compliment Kelly Olynyk for being in the right spots on defense in his first game back after shoulder surgery, and noted that his shots will fall eventually. Olynyk grabbed six rebounds, but it was Washington’s 19 offensive rebounds that were eating away at the coach.
“It was blocking out from the perimeter most of the night,” Stevens said. “For the most part, it was their perimeter guys flying in. We’re doing the old watch-them-fly-by-us-and-rebound. We have to be a team that’s even on the glass to have a chance to win. And we have to work really hard to be even.”
Stevens won’t point to the absence of Jae Crowder and Al Horford, but a somber Avery Bradley noted that the team is looking forward to their return. But before the Celtics can look toward reinforcements that don’t have definitive timetables for their returns, they need to take a hard look in the mirror.
“I’ve got to watch the film, and see what I can do better,” Thomas said, absorbing his share of the blame as he re-iterated his belief that the team just isn’t outworking opponents the way it did en route to 48 regular season wins last season. “That’s just the feeling I have right now.”
Thomas and company will hopefully rebound in time for Friday’s tilt against the New York Knicks, both in the locker room, and on the glass.