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Isaiah Thomas laments Celtics’ lack of effort: ‘We’re in a bad funk right now’ 11.09.16 at 10:22 pm ET
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The Celtics’ latest embarrassment, a 118-93 rout at the hands of the previously struggling Wizards on Wednesday night, has left the team searching for answers.

Guard Isaiah Thomas said the bottom line is the C’s need to play harder.

“It’s tough. We’re in a bad funk right now. But we can’t hold our heads,” he told reporters in Washington. “One thing I think is, we’re not the hardest-playing team no more. I think that’s what made us special, that’s what made us good, is us playing harder than the other team, being more scrappier, getting all the loose balls. Rebounds don’t come to us no more because we’re not playing hard.

“I’ve got to watch the film, I’ve got to see what I’ve got to do better, see what we can do better. But that’s just the feeling I have right now, that we’re not the hardest-playing team. And that’s what made us special, what made us win 48 games last year and made teams not really want to play against us. We don’t have that swagger no more.”

The C’s biggest issues are with defensive and rebounding — they were beaten 54-31 on the boards Wednesday.

“It’s playing hard, leaving it all out there on the floor,” Thomas said. “That’s who we were. That’s what made us one of the best defensive teams in the league. That’s what made us win 48 games last year. We have to find that swag. We’ve got to find that … that. We’ve got to get that back. Because if we don’t, it seems like we’re going off talent, which we really don’t have that much talent, including myself. I think if we get that hard hat back where we’re the hardest-playing team, we’re going to be in every game. Last year we didn’t get blown out like this. Even though it’s early, it’s been two really bad games for us. But we didn’t have these types of games last year. Just half the battle was us playing that hard, which we were in most of the games.”

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Fast Break: Celtics dominated by Otto Porter, Wizards 11.09.16 at 9:30 pm ET
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Otto Porter heads to the basket for two of his 34 points Wednesday. (Brad Mills/USA Today Sports)

Otto Porter heads to the basket for two of his 34 points Wednesday. (Brad Mills/USA Today Sports)

Following Sunday’s disappointing loss to the Nuggets, Celtics coach Brad Stevens lamented his team’s lack of physicality. He undoubtedly was hoping the C’s would show some fight in Wednesday’s night’s game against the Wizards, who came in at 1-5.

No such luck.

Boston was outscored 34-8 in the first quarter — the biggest first-quarter deficit in franchise history — never mounted a serious comeback bid, and for the second straight game watched an opposing player turn in a career night as they lost 118-93. Three days after Nuggets guard Emmanuel Mudiay exploded for 30 points at TD Garden, the Celtics watched as Wizards forward Otto Porter erupted for a career-high 34 points on 14-of-19 shooting to go along with a career-high-tying 14 rebounds, four assists, three steals and three blocks — one of them on a Jaylen Brown dunk attempt in the third quarter.

Porter, who scored 20 points in the first half as his team took a 58-43 lead, said the struggling Wizards wanted this game badly.

“This, to us, was like  must-win,” he told CSNNE’s Abby Chin before leaving the court. “We had to get this one. Whatever it takes.”

Meanwhile, with Al Horford (concussion) and Jae Crowder (ankle) still sidelined — but with Kelly Olynyk making his first appearance (2 points, 6 rebounds in 26 minutes) — the C’s were again hammered on the boards, as Washington held a 54-31 rebounding advantage.

The C’s (3-4) were led by Isaiah Thomas (23 points, 10 assists), Avery Bradley (21 points) and Marcus Smart (20 points).

Smart also was involved in an incident with John Wall. With 5:24 remaining and the Wizards comfortably in command, Wall inexplicably tackled Smart around the head and threw him to the ground — ostensibly while trying to steal the ball. Smart got up and immediately started an animated conversation with the Wizards star, although he showed remarkable restraint considering Wall’s seemingly unprovoked attack.

Wall was given a flagrant-2 foul and ejected — for the second straight game — while Smart was given a technical foul.

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Jaylen Brown meet-and-greet canceled after police disperse ‘aggressive’ crowd at Cambridge mall 11.08.16 at 12:47 pm ET
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A Monday night event at the CambridgeSide Galleria featuring Celtics rookie Jaylen Brown had to be canceled when crowds became unruly, forcing police to evacuate the mall, according to police and media reports.

Police said a crowd estimated at more than 1,000 people had gathered for a meet-and-greet with Brown and rapper Desiigner. When a group of fans in line surged forward and knocked over other people and barriers shortly before 6 p.m., police were called in to clear what they termed an “aggressive crowd.”

A police spokesman said fans threw glass, bricks and other objects, and police were forced to use pepper spray. Six juveniles were arrested for disorderly conduct, disturbing the peace and trespassing.

Brown tweeted a photo of himself down the street from the mall and indicated he had not yet made it inside when the incident occurred.

Brown and the Celtics, coming off a disappointing loss to the Nuggets on Sunday night, next play the Wizards on Wednesday night in Washington.

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Fast Break: Celtics defense exposed again in blowout loss to Nuggets 11.06.16 at 9:54 pm ET
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Nuggets guard Emmanuel Mudiay drives past Avery Bradley during the Celtics' loss Sunday night. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

Nuggets guard Emmanuel Mudiay drives past Avery Bradley during the Celtics’ loss Sunday night. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

Celtics coach Brad Stevens, addressing Boston’s issues on defense this season, told reporters after Saturday’s practice that the team has “slipped in some defensive areas.” In Sunday’s 123-107 loss to the Nuggets, the C’s slipped, skidded, fell off a cliff and crashed into smithereens.

Denver (3-3) had its way from start to finish, shooting 52.4 percent in handing Boston (3-3) its first home loss of the young season.

Nuggets guard Emmanuel Mudiay scorched the Celtics for 24 points in the opening 12 minutes and finished with 30 on 11-of-17 shooting. Wilson Chandler added 22 points, making 8-of-14 shots.

Isaiah Thomas also scored 30 points, but he had to work a lot harder for his, hitting 9-of-17 shots and making 11-of-12 free throws. Avery Bradley contributed 14 points, 11 rebounds and six assists.

Denver was playing its fourth road game in seven days and was coming off a 17-point loss in Detroit the night before. No matter. The Nuggets scored 77 points in the opening half, taking a 25-point lead and sending the Celtics to the locker room amid a smattering of boos from the home crowd. The Nuggets hit 64.4 percent of their shots and outrebounded the Celtics 22-15.

Stevens tried everything, including playing all 12 players on his bench. Jordan Mickey provided a brief spark, getting open underneath for three dunks.

The C’s finally showed signs of life to open the second half, picking up full court, playing their man far more aggressively and boxing out with a purpose. That led to an 8-0 run that included three Denver turnovers, and a spurt that cut the deficit to 15 midway through the period. However, the Nuggets pushed the lead back to 20 heading into the final quarter (103-83) and cruised home from there.

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Fast Break: Celtics come up short vs. LeBron James, Cavaliers 11.03.16 at 10:49 pm ET
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Jaylen Brown defends against Tristan Thompson during Thursday's game. (Ken Blaze/USA Today Sports)

Jaylen Brown defends against Cavaliers forward Tristan Thompson during Thursday’s game in Cleveland. (Ken Blaze/USA Today Sports)

Cleveland’s sports fans were in need of a pick-me-up following the Indians’ Game 7 loss to the Cubs, and on Thursday night the Cavaliers gave it to them, jumping out to a big lead and holding on for a 128-122 win over the short-handed Celtics to remain unbeaten on the young season.

The defending NBA champions (5-0) rained down 3-pointers — 11 of their 13 coming in the first half as they took a 68-51 lead into the break — and loaded up on transition baskets as the C’s struggled to stay close most of the night. Boston (3-2) managed to whittle a 20-point deficit to five points midway through the final quarter after a Jaylen Brown 3-pointer.

The C’s rookie, who made his first career start in place of the injured Jae Crowder and drew the assignment of guarding LeBron James, impressed with 19 points (8-of-16 field goals, including 3-of-6 treys) and was a team-best plus-15.

“I thought he played really hard, obviously made shots and did a lot of good things,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said of Brown in his postgame press conference. “You never expect a guy to make 50 percent of his 3’s every day, right? But I think at the end of the day, if he can bring that same tenacity and that same focus, especially defensively, he can just keep getting better. That’s what you want. So I thought today was a good step in the right direction, for sure.”

Avery Bradley had a big night, scoring 26 points on 11-of-20 shooting and grabbing 10 rebounds. Isaiah Thomas netted 28 points, although he missed all six of his 3-point attempts.

James (12-of-22 field goals) scored a game-high 30 points as he closed in on 10th place on the NBA’s all-time scoring list. He now sits at 26,945, one point behind Hakeem Olajuwon. James also had seven rebounds and 12 assists.

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Al Horford will miss Bulls game while in concussion protocol program; Avery Bradley has shoulder examined 11.02.16 at 12:26 pm ET
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Al Horford

Al Horford

The Celtics will be without Al Horford for Wednesday night’s game at TD Garden against the Bulls, as the center was placed in the NBA’s concussion protocol program.

According to the team, Horford was hit in the head during Monday’s practice, although he did not show any concussion symptoms on Monday night or Tuesday morning. During Tuesday’s practice, Horford started to show symptoms, so he was removed from the court and examined by team physicians. He was placed in the concussion protocol program Tuesday night.

Meanwhile, Avery Bradley missed Tuesday’s practice with a sore right shoulder — an issue he’s been dealing with since training camp. Coach Brad Stevens said the team’s medical staff will determine the guard’s availability for Wednesday. Bradley had two shoulder surgeries (both sides) after the 2011-12 season.

Bradley, 25, is coming off a tremendous performance in a win over the Hornets on Saturday night, as he amassed 31 points, 11 rebounds and eight 3-pointers. Through three games he is averaging 21.3 points, 8.7 rebounds and 4.7 assists.

On the positive side for Boston, guard Marcus Smart will make his season debut Wednesday after being sidelined with a sprained ankle.

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Celtics exercise 2017-18 options for Marcus Smart, Terry Rozier 10.31.16 at 5:11 pm ET
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Marcus Smart already was in a good mood Monday, as he practiced with the team and then said he is ready to return to game action. He had to be feeling even better later in the day, as the team announced that it was exercising his contract for next season, keeping him in Boston for a fourth year.

The C’s also announced they were exercising the third-year option for fellow guard Terry Rozier, who is averaging 6.0 points, 3.0 assists and 3.3 rebounds in three games this season.

Smart will earn $4.5 million next season, while Rozier is set to make $1.9 million.

While both of those moves were expected — the players are key parts of Boston’s rotation — the team has not made clear its plans for shooting guard James Young leading up to Monday’s midnight deadline. The 21-year-old beat out R.J. Hunter for the team’s final roster spot earlier this month, but it would not be a surprise for the Celtics to allow him to become a free agent in the offseason, as he has yet to impress with any consistency.

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