BOSTON (CBS) -- The Boston Celtics snapped a four-game skid with some great late-game execution against the Pacers on Wednesday night.
Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge joined 98.5 The Sports Hub's Toucher & Rich on Thursday to discuss Boston's recent slide, in which they've dropped six of their last eight, and said effort hasn't been the issue during the tough stretch.
"A fire under their butts is not the issue at all. To have a team with a 5-foot-9 point guard and virtually no shot-blocking or no real rim protection, and to be the third best defense in the NBA, is a pretty good indicator at the halfway mark that this team doesn't have to play harder," said Ainge. "Play smarter, play more together and make more shots -- sure. But last night I saw guys almost trying too hard at stretches; they needed to slow down and calm down a bit, they wanted to win so bad."
The Celtics had four steal-and-score plays in a 93-second span in the closing minutes of Wednesday night's 103-94 win, with their late-game execution returning after what seemed like a two-week absence. Now Ainge would like to see Boston's offense put more pressure on opposing defenses.
"Everybody got in the act on defense and that has been our calling card. At some point we have to execute better in the half-court offense. That's been our biggest inconsistency," said Ainge. "Last night was a hard-fought win and I love watching our guys. We have some really, really good players and some really good intensity. But we have to start making shots. Last night we won in spite of three of our best shooters not being able to score."
While Isaiah Thomas has been solid from the floor, Avery Bradley is shooting just 35 percent in January with Marcus Smart even worse since his return from a knee injury, hitting just 28 percent of his attempts in his nine games back.
"I do love the grit but we have to start making more shots, and I think we will," Ainge said confidently.
Ainge also touched on the close relationship between Celtics head coach Brad Stevens and his former Butler center Andrew Smith, who lost his battle with cancer on Tuesday at the age of 25. Stevens missed Boston's game against the Bulls last week to visit with Smith, and Ainge said the Celtics organization explored different treatments for Smith during his battle.
"We all know Brad Stevens. You can tell by watching him interact with his team and being around him every day at work. You just know he is as high a quality of person as there is," said Ainge. "When Brad called and first told me of Andrew a few months back and what he was going through, we were putting our heads together to see if there was some sort of medical way we could help him, grasping at straws near the end to see if we could find a new test or any sign of hope for Andrew. That's just who Brad is.
"We certainly would [do that] for anybody. We've done it for family of players, and I guess this is sort of the same situation," said Ainge. "I guess this is sort of the same situation; a close personal friend was in need."
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