It was certainly a tale of two seasons for the Boston Celtics last year. After an ugly start, they turned it on and won 26 of their last 32 games. They battled through a grueling playoff run to reach the NBA Finals for the first time in 12 years.
Veteran point guard Marcus Smart recently spoke about the two seasons within the season for the Celtics. He pointed out exactly when they flipped that switch.
Marcus Smart made some noise with the Boston Celtics earlier in the season
The Celtics finished the 2020-21 season with a disappointing 36-36 record. The Brooklyn Nets ousted them in the first round of the playoffs. The 2021-22 season didn’t start out any better.
With young stars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown leading the way, expectations were high for the Celtics. They got off to a slow start and had several bumps along the way. Early in the season, Smart publicly called out Brown and Tatum for not passing the ball.
“Every team knows we’re trying to go to Jayson and Jaylen,” Smart said after the Celtics blew a 19-point lead in the third quarter to the Chicago Bulls. “Every team is programmed and studied to stop Jayson and Jaylen. I think everybody’s scouting report is to make those guys pass the ball. They don’t want to pass the ball.”
Smart didn’t stop there.
“There’s only so much I can do without the ball in my hands and just stand in the corner,” Smart said, according to CLNS Media. “We’re running plays for our best players and every team knows that. They do a great job of shutting that down. When they shut that down, we can’t keep trying to go to those guys.”
Smart pinpoints exactly when the Celtics turned things around
Through 50 games last season, the Celtics were 25-25. They appeared to be the same old Celtics, an underachieving team that needed change. There were questions about whether Tatum and Brown could play together. First-year coach Ime Udoka questioned the team’s effort on several occasions. Udoka also challenged the team’s mental toughness in January.
So what was the actual turning point in the season? Was there one? Did the team just find its groove in February?
Smart gave his thoughts on what triggered Boston’s 26-6 record to end the regular season. He said it came down to the players feeling a level of comfort after the trade deadline passed.
“For us, we became more stable after the trade deadline,” Smart told Eisen. “Guys knew they were going to be here. They knew exactly what their roles were going to be.
“Early on in the year, we had a new coach. We had new guys. Nobody knew exactly what was a sure thing. I think that hurt us. Once we clarified that, we just settled down. Everyone was anxious to prove to everybody what they could do. Once we settled in and calmed down, it actually started to show.”