Celtics turn to the video tape to try to identify source of recent defensive struggles – The Boston Globe

Since the end of their frustrating five-game Western Conference road trip, the Celtics have dedicated a lot of time to film study in hopes of identifying the sources of their struggles.
“It’s our coverage, our communication,” guard Marcus Smart said. “It looked like we were stuck in quicksand on the trip. And that’s not like us. We know our offense has been poor, but our defense is something that [has] kept us in this and going during the season.”
Coach Ime Udoka said defense was the focus of most of the film sessions. Boston started its trip with a top-five defense but was gashed for at least 111 points in each of the five games. Prior to that, it had held opponents to under 100 points in four out of five games.
“Obviously, our numbers dropped quite a bit,” Udoka said. “We may have got focused on the offensive side too much and kind of went away from our identity and what gave us success earlier in the year. So, getting back to guarding the way we were. We were number 3 at the time, we’re number 10 now based on that trip, and I think after those five games we were 30th in guarding the 3-point line and guarding a lot of different areas on that road trip. So it’s getting back to who we are defensively.”
Celtics forward Jaylen Brown returned Monday night against the Bucks after missing five games because of a sore hamstring. He scored 19 points and played 30 minuted in the Celtics’ 117-103 win.
Smart said Brown has shown a return to form in recent practices.
“He’s out there dunking and running, doing all the things that we expect Jaylen to do,” Smart said. “So it’s definitely a sight for us to see and it’s a good one. But, ultimately, it comes down to how Jaylen feels and putting him in a game situation is different than [a practice].”
Brown was injured during Boston’s Nov. 4 win over the Heat and missed the next eight games. He returned for five games before missing the recent trip with lingering soreness.
“I know Jaylen has definitely missed us and wanted to get out there and go to war with us,” Smart said. “It’s good to have our brother back.”
Guard Josh Richardson, meanwhile, missed his second consecutive game after entering the NBA’s COVID-19 health and safety protocols. It remains unclear when he will be able to return. With Brown back, point guard Dennis Schröder returned to the bench as Boston’s sixth man.
Former Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas is signing with the Nuggets’ G League affiliate, the Grand Rapids Gold. The Gold are coached by Thomas’s longtime friend and fellow Tacoma, Wash., native Jason Terry.
Thomas, who was an All-Star in each of his two full seasons in Boston (2015-17), has not played in the NBA this season and has played in 55 games over the previous three. He will take part in the upcoming G League Winter Showcase, which will be held in Las Vegas Dec. 19-22.
Adam Himmelsbach can be reached at adam.himmelsbach@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @adamhimmelsbach.
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