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‘These dudes are locked in.’ A Celtics assistant coach details what changed

Jayson Tatum defended against Kevin Durant in the first half Tuesday night.Ben Margot/AP/Associated Press

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SACRAMENTO — Film study can be monotonous but a necessary evil for NBA players. They watch slices of footage with coaches before practices and shootarounds and games, and the repetition makes it easy for eyes to glaze over amid the loops.

For Celtics coaches, these sessions can offer a good indicator of how engaged and focused the team is. And it is no secret that there have been times during this topsy-turvy season when the team has struggled with that.

After a humbling loss to the Rockets Sunday, though, there were several signs that the Celtics were, well, sick of the losing and finger-pointing and criticism. Assistant coach Micah Shrewsberry, for one, could see it first during film reviews, when players looked at past missteps and prepared to avoid new ones.


“Guys are talking through it and commenting and kind of pointing different things out,” Shrewsberry said Wednesday. “That’s when we’re really locked in. Somebody may have a question, but somebody else answers it.

“When it’s their group and they’re making the reads and suggestions and coming up with the plan, that’s when you can tell these dudes are locked in and they’re ready.”

Before Monday’s practice, the team watched film of the Rockets loss. It was mostly humbling, but it also provided some hope based on the way the Celtics clawed back in the second half. And before Tuesday’s shootaround, the focus shifted to the Warriors.

“And guys were speaking up,” Shrewsberry said. “They’re seeing different things or talking about what they see and how they can help the next guy. ‘Here’s what I see, and if you do this, I’m looking at this this way.’

“They’re communicating through each other the things they see on the court, and I think it translates when they can put it together like that.”


Of course, that is not why Boston dismantled the Warriors, 128-95, Tuesday night. But the Celtics insist that these small things add up. And during this uneven year, they remain hopeful that minor positive shifts will ultimately yield big results.

Coach Brad Stevens said before Tuesday’s game that the team’s vibe was as good as it had been in some time. After the game, point guard Kyrie Irving pointed to the importance of the six-hour flight together from Boston to San Francisco.

Shrewsberry said the plane ride did not seem out of the ordinary, but added, “At some point in time during that trip, maybe they just figured out they’d had enough and said, ‘Let’s do it together.’ ”

He said the players have been “super connected” over the past few days, in practices, walk-throughs, and film sessions. He agreed with Stevens’s claim that the energy has been noticeably different. At the Tuesday morning shootaround, players were laughing and joking and seemingly enjoying one another’s company.

“If somebody just randomly walked by, they would have probably looked in like, ‘What the hell are the Celtics doing?’ ” Shrewsberry said. “Because it was straight chaos. But it was fun.”

And the good feelings continued through the night.

This season, players and coaches have sometimes been disheartened by the lack of energy and emotion from the bench during games. The Golden State game was different.

“You could just see it on the bench from everybody,” Shrewsberry said. “Everybody celebrates at the end of the game when Guerschon [Yabusele] or someone hits a shot, but from start to finish it was like that.


“The first guy that checked in — everyone was up celebrating when Gordon [Hayward] scored, or Terry [Rozier] or Jaylen [Brown]. When we’re making the right plays and doing that, from start to finish we celebrated each other’s success.

“It was genuine, too. There wasn’t anything fake with that.”

This is not to say that Boston will instantly roll off a massive winning streak. Players and coaches were already leery of Wednesday’s game against the well-rested Kings. But there is a sense within the team that the Celtics are building the right habits before it is too late.

“We’re ultimately a gritty, together group that’s just fighting and clawing every possession,” Shrewsberry said. “You kind of saw that [against the Warriors]. That’s the kind of group I think everybody remembers. That part was encouraging.”

Adam Himmelsbach can be reached at adam.himmelsbach@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @adamhimmelsbach.