BOSTON (CBS) — The Celtics’ three-game win streak came to an end Wednesday night when they lost to the lowly New York Knicks at the TD Garden.
While the Celtics had won seven of their last eight before Wednesday’s disappointing loss, that doesn’t mean they were playing their best basketball. Their defense has been non-existent for much of the season, which was evident when the Knicks dropped 117 points on Wednesday night. New York shot 51 percent from the floor in the 117-106 win, and pummeled Boston on the glass, 57-33, which included 18 offensive rebounds.READ MORE: Massachusetts State Police Union Sues To Delay Vaccine Mandate For Troopers
Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge joined 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Toucher & Rich for his weekly call into the show on Thursday, and said Wednesday night’s loss was a good wake up call for his squad.
“I feel like we haven’t been playing our best basketball lately. We’ve been winning games, but we haven’t been playing the defense or [playing] with the commitment that we need. We’ve had success and have been able to do it with making baskets and making a lot of three-point baskets. We haven’t grinded out a win like we did last season, where we had a bad shooting night but found a way to win just through grit and scrappiness,” said Ainge.
He added that while the C’s jumped out to an early lead on Wednesday, it just didn’t feel right because the team wasn’t playing with much effort.
“We were making shots again, but that caught up to us. The Knicks, who haven’t been playing well, were hungry and played fierce on the glass. It was very clear to everyone there that they just wanted that game more than us,” he said. “It was a good wake up call to us.”
Isaiah Thomas continued his torrid stretch on the score sheet Wednesday, pouring in 39 points against New York. Ainge loves what he is seeing out of Thomas, but worries that the Celtics will become too reliant on their scoring leader.READ MORE: I-Team: Hopkinton Drug Advertises Supply Of Ivermectin, Despite Ineffectiveness Against COVID
“Isaiah is playing as good as I’ve seen any player play in a long time. It can’t be sustained, when you’re playing at this high of a level, but I think Isaiah is having a fantastic, fantastic year that is fun and is so entertaining and fun to see,” he said. “There is danger that we’ll become too reliant on him, and other guys will be looking and deferring to him, which takes away from what other guys can do on the court.
“Last night, it showed how much we missed Avery Bradley, because he’s the guy who would usually guard Derrick Rose,” said Ainge, with Bradley sidelined with an Achilles injury. “Every guy has their value and importance, and sometimes I worry there is too much of Isaiah. But, to his credit, he’s earned it. I think everyone wants to tune in to see what Isaiah will do. He is very charismatic, he’s driven and he does play with a chip on his shoulder.”
The Celtics have earned themselves the reputation of being a physical — and borderline dirty — team, according to some of their most recent opponents. However, Ainge does not agree with that assessment.
“I don’t think our players are dirty. Those kinds of things happen because of a dirty play, or maybe someone says something. But I love the way our teams play. When we’re playing right, we play with an edge,” he said. “When we’re really focused, you can tell. Our transition defense is great, our rebounding is good — it’s respectable. We know that that is our Achilles heel, so we have to put forth a great effort.”
Ainge said he likes the physicality the team has showed, which comes from bringing in players with an edge.
“It’s contagious,” he said. “Playing with that kind of passion and edge is contagious, just like Isaiah’s chip on his shoulder, Avery’s defensive intensity, Crowder’s toughness and Smart’s grit. Those are things we like about these guys and things we continue to like about them.”MORE NEWS: Coronavirus In Massachusetts: Today's Developments
Listen to the full interview: