Stevens Surprised Celtics with Physical Practice

NEW YORK – Brad Stevens said before Tuesday’s practice that he planned to make a couple of changes to generate a greater sense of urgency from his players. On Wednesday, we found out what those changes were.

It doesn’t appear that Stevens was alluding to changes with his lineup or rotations. Instead, as Marcus Smart revealed, the coach likely was referring to the intensity of the team’s practice.

“It was supposed to be a light practice,” said Smart, “but we ended up going 5-on-5, contact, full-out and everything.”

He later added, “I don’t know if that’s what he was talking about or what it was, but it’s something that we needed to do to light a fire under us and try to get us ready for these next couple of games.”

A surprise physical practice following a game the night before could go in one of two directions. Players could become angry, particularly amidst a draining 82-game season. On the other hand, players could recognize the challenge their coach has set forth and seize an opportunity to get better. For now, Stevens believes his team took the latter route.

“They responded well. I don’t think there was any question about it,” Stevens said when asked about Tuesday’s practice. “But we’ll know more after this road trip.”

The Celtics begin their longest road trip of the season to this point at 7:30 p.m. tonight in Brooklyn. They will then fly to Indianapolis to take on the Pacers on Friday and then wrap up a back-to-back on Saturday in Toronto. All three of those teams have been playing very well of late.

There is no doubt that Boston will need to play with more fire during those contests than it did Monday night against Charlotte. Tuesday’s practice delivered that message loud and clear.

“It shows us that we need to get more serious about it,” Smart said of his coach’s decision to script a physical practice on Tuesday. “Obviously, everybody on this team hates losing, but we’re a young team and we’re still trying to find those right matchups on the court. There’s no reason we shouldn’t be playing with effort every night.”

The Celtics hope that the effort they put forth during Tuesday’s practice will carry over to tonight’s game. For what it’s worth, Stevens said that such is typically the case following a high-intensity practice.

“I think it’s been for the most part pretty good,” he said of past practice carryovers. “But I think we’ve got to get better in a lot of areas.”

The main area of concern this week has been the effort level of this team. We’ll find out tonight if the physical nature of Tuesday’s practice has made that concern disappear.

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