C’s Strive to Improve Defensive Focus After Loss to Wizards

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BOSTON – After completing a road-trip sweep of Houston and Charlotte, the Celtics returned home to Boston Wednesday night looking to maintain their positive momentum against the Washington Wizards. Instead. their defense, which was so strong down the final stretch against the Hornets Monday night, came up lacking in a 116-107 loss at TD Garden.

Boston started off on a high note, outscoring Washington 16-10 through the first eight-plus minutes of action. However, its lead didn’t last long, as Washington went on a 25-6 run which spanned from the latter part of the first quarter into the early portion of the second.

The Wizards went up by as many as 15 points in the third quarter before the Celtics stormed back to take a one-point lead. But after expending so much energy rallying, Boston faded down the stretch, allowing Washington to escape with a well-deserved win.

It marked the fourth time in their first five games that the Celtics fell behind by double-digits. On three of those occasions, they were able to rally back and take a lead, but on only one of those occasions (in Charlotte) did they come away with a win.

Although they’ve done an admirable job of clawing their way back from large deficits, Jayson Tatum believes that they shouldn’t be playing from behind to begin with.

“We just have to have better starts to the game and try to play that way for as long as we can,” he said following a team-high 23-point effort Wednesday night. “We’re capable, we’ve just gotta do it.”

The reason they weren’t able to do it Wednesday night, according to Al Horford was that “we weren’t focused enough. As a unit, we just need to continue just to adapt, do our jobs, and be professional. It’s something that we have to take care of, and I believe we will.”

The lapses of focus occurred mostly on the defensive end. Montrezl Harrell set the tone with his energy and effort in the paint, as he came off the bench and scored 17 of his game-high 25 points before the break.

“When the ball is thrown up, we’ve just got to be ready. And it can’t start on the offensive end,” said Dennis Schroder, who tallied 22 points of his own off the bench. “That’s one thing that we want to change ¬– bring the mentality on the defensive end and then just play off of that.”

Fortunately, the Celtics have plenty of time to improve their focus. And Horford has faith that they will.

“It’s early in the year,” the 15-year vet said following a 13-point, 10-rebound effort – his third double-double in as many games. “There’s some things that we need to address and just continue to make sure that we don’t fall into any bad habits or anything. So I’m looking forward to our practice on Friday, and making sure that we start the right way there and that we build and go from there.”

It’s imperative that the C’s set the tone with a high-energy practice Friday. Because the very next day, they will be facing the Wizards all over again, this time in hostile territory. They’ll aim to bring a higher, more consistent level of focus down to D.C. where they’ll get a shot at instant redemption.