DALLAS — In the middle of the Dallas Mavericks practice court at American Airlines Center, there was silence among the nearly two dozen men except for Celtics assistant coach Jay Larranaga, whose voice pierced the cavernous facility.
He preached to the players to take open shots. It sounds simple, but when the team shoots 4 percent from 3-point range, missing 24 of 25 attempts, as it did in Saturday’s 104-90 loss to the Houston Rockets, there might be a sense of hesitation about the next open shot.
The issue wasn’t a stifling Houston defense. It was that the Celtics settled for long jumpers, and missing them became contagious. It was also an easier alternative than approaching former defensive player of the year Dwight Howard in the paint.
Coming off that putrid offensive performance, Celtics coach Brad Stevens offered encouragement, stressing the importance of offensive comfort, especially for a team that is expected to rely heavily on perimeter shooting.
“They played really well, really aggressive, they took us out of what we wanted and we had a really good practice [Sunday] that we made strides in being able to handle that,” Stevens said. “Obviously Dallas brings a whole new list of issues and they’re playing at a great level. But I feel like it’s been a good few hours since the game ended. We got a lot done today.
“Here’s the positive from [Saturday night]: We only turned the ball over 10 times. We took 98 shots. Did we get perfect shots? Probably not. But did we miss some that were really good shots? Yeah. Hey, we’ll just keep trying to get good shots.”
The Rockets not only scored 30 points in the first 8:11 of the game and never trailed, they also set the tone with an intensity for which the Celtics were not prepared.
It was Boston’s 21st consecutive road loss to a Western Conference team.
“It’s tough when you’re not making shots but that wasn’t our problem,” forward Jeff Green said. “They got to the free throw line 40 times. I think we took a step back on the defensive end from [the opener]. We were just a step slow. That’s all I can say right now.
“We can’t panic. It’s only two games in, you know what I mean? It got to a point where we started to force it. We did pass up some shots.”
How they roll
While James Young could eventually contribute, Stevens has established his playing rotation and it doesn’t include Gerald Wallace, Dwight Powell, or Phil Pressey. Stevens said the roster is so evenly balanced that some players were going to be disappointed when the rotation was decided . . . The last time the Celtics shot below 10 percent on 3-pointers in a game was March 7, 2012, when they missed all eight in a 103-71 loss at Philadelphia.
Gary Washburn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.