Celtics Embracing ‘Us Against the World’ Mentality

The Boston Celtics have faced plenty of criticism for their inconsistent play throughout the 2021-22 season, but they're not letting any of it get them down. Instead, they’re using any and all outside negativity to fuel their desire to prove the doubters wrong and finish the season strong.

Following a 29-point blowout win over the Washington Wizards Sunday afternoon, Marcus Smart spoke of an ‘us against the world’ mentality that the Celtics have developed inside their locker room, which is driving them to play harder and rise above their current status as a .500 team.

“It’s us versus everybody,” Smart said. “Nobody really believes in us but us on his team. That's how we feel. We hear the noise. We see it. It is what it is, but it’s us versus everybody. That's the mindset that we have. It’s the mindset we got to keep and we gotta let that fuel us. Whatever that takes, whatever that means. We got to use it to our advantage.”

Jaylen Brown echoed Smart’s feelings Tuesday morning before facing off against the Sacramento Kings at TD Garden. The star wing acknowledged how he and his teammates haven’t lived up to their expectations so far with a 24-24 record, but he also made it clear that they are eager to keep fighting alongside one another to right the ship.

“The season hasn’t gone the way we expected as far as ups and downs, but we always try to find ways to come together as a team,” Brown said after shootaround at the Auerbach Center. “So the mentality of us against the world is the right frame of mind to be in. If these are the guys that we’ve got, the guys that we’re rolling with, then we’ve got to make the best of our situation regardless of the media or whatever other people are saying.”

Jayson Tatum certainly played with such a mentality Sunday afternoon in D.C. where he broke out of a shooting slump for a season-high 51-point, 10-rebound, seven-assist performance.

Smart says that he had a conversation with Tatum before the game, urging the All-NBA wing to keep believing in himself despite what anybody outside the Celtics locker room is saying. Tatum responded with a career-best 9-of-14 shooting performance from 3-point range.

“'Just keep playing,'” Smart told Tatum before Sunday's game. “That was my main focus for everybody, especially JT. Block the noise, you know? When you go out there and you just let basketball do the plan, do the talking, and you worry about basketball, things tend to work themselves out. Just believe in the work that you put in. You put in all this hard work and all this time. It wasn’t for nothing. Believe in it. Just go out there and do it. And he shook my hand, gave me a hug, and said, ‘Yeah, I appreciate it.’ And he ended up with 50 plus.”

Having Tatum break out of his slump is encouraging for the Celtics, but even more uplifting is the fact that they finally have a fully healthy roster now that Smart is back from the Health and Safety Protocols.

So far this season, they are 8-5 when their typical starting group of Smart, Brown, Tatum, Al Horford, and Rob Williams is entirely healthy. On Tuesday, they’ll get a chance to up that record to 9-5 and get back over .500 on the campaign.

With 34 regular-season games left, there’s still plenty of time for the Celtics to rise from their current position as the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference. They know that they could still encounter more bumps in the road along the way, but they’re prepared to respond to whatever adversity comes their way.

“You’re always going to get knocked down,” said Smart. “But you know the saying: it’s not what you do when you get knocked down; it’s what you do after you get knocked down. And for us, we've been knocked down a few times this season, but yet, we keep getting up and fighting. That's what we’re going to continue to do.”

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