ORLANDO — The aftermath of the Celtics' locker-room argument lasted deep into Thursday night and Friday afternoon before tensions between players were finally cooled, according to an NBA source.
After Boston’s disheartening 106-101 loss to the Miami Heat in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals, screaming, yelling and items being thrown could be heard outside the locker room at AdventHealth Arena for 20-plus minutes as NBA officials and reporters waited anxiously for the players and coach Brad Stevens to be available for interviews.
Marcus Smart came out of that meeting chiding his teammates for their finger-pointing and lack of execution down the stretch. According to the source, Smart entered the locker room and began criticizing his teammates for their effort, going on a tirade as they watched.
As Smart continued to scream, Jaylen Brown told him to calm down and said losing was a team responsibility. Brown apparently flipped a table and the two had to be separated, which is when Smart left the room to use the rest room.
Smart has been deemed responsible for the incident but the yelling continued once he left for the rest room, which was down the hall from the locker room. Five minutes later Smart re-entered the locker room, where coaches and players could be heard yelling and throwing items for several more minutes.
In one sequence, an assistant coach opened the locker room door for several moments to exit, allowing reporters and NBA officials to hear the argument.
And while the situation was downplayed by all parties — except Smart, who did not speak with the media — the situation continued a few hours after the game as Stevens met with Smart, Brown, Jayson Tatum and Kemba Walker to attempt to calm feelings.
Smart, according to a source, grew angry again and left the late-night meeting abruptly as he and Brown began exchanging words.
On Friday, the Celtics held a voluntary workout and Stevens met with the players again. But before then, Walker had arranged a call between Brown and Smart and the two settled their differences on the phone.
During the Friday practice meeting, the players discussed constructive ways to respond in Saturday night’s Game 3 and attempt to make a comeback in the series. The Celtics have had their moments in the first two games, taking double-digit leads in the fourth quarter of Game 1 and third quarter of Game 2 before blowing both advantages as the Heat made all the key plays in the final minutes.
The frustration is understandable, as the Celtics allowed Bam Adebayo to score 15 third-quarter points on either layups or dunks, and then couldn’t solve Miami’s zone and became inept offensively in the fourth quarter. Finally, Miami star Jimmy Butler collected three steals in the final five minutes, two leading to layups, as the Celtics were slow to get back on defense.
Smart, the team’s spiritual leader, finished 1-for-6 shooting in the second half with three missed 3-pointers. Brown, who has not been pleased with the amount of touches he has received against the zone, almost brought the Celtics back but missed an open 3-point look in the final 30 seconds that would have tied the game.
The frustration stemmed from a second half in which the Celtics made just 11 shots, committed 12 turnovers (4 by Smart) and allowed the Heat to go 15 for 23 on 2-point shots (mostly layups).
“We gotta be together for 48 minutes and we’ve yet to do that,” Brown said after the game. "We need everybody to be all-in and to continue to bring that energy. I’m ready to come out for Game 3, that’s what it’s all about. Ups, downs, you fight.
“Obviously emotions are going to fly. We wanted to win this game and we didn’t. I think it’s a beauty to [what happened]. A lot of people are passionate and emotional and I’m one of those people. We’ve got a young team.”
When asked Thursday night about Smart, less than an hour after they had to be separated, Brown said: “That’s why we love Marcus. He plays with passion. He’s full of fire and that’s what I love about him most, to be honest. He has that desire and that will and we need him to continue to have that. There’s ups and downs with families all the times but we embrace each other with who we are. Who Marcus is, I love him for it.”
There is hope within the organization the Celtics will respond favorably to the events of the last 36 hours and it could mean a positive change in the series. But as of now, all the issues have been cleared as the Celtics prepare for their biggest game of the season.