Celtics Notes: Brad Stevens ‘A Lot More Encouraged’ Despite Loss

BOSTON — The Boston Celtics certainly are not out of the woods from their most recent slump, but perhaps there is a flicker of daylight on the horizon.

After dropping all three games on its most recent road trip, the losing streak extended back to Boston, as the Celtics fell 97-92 to the Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday night at TD Garden.

But, even in another defeat, the Celtics showed life, something that couldn’t be said of them in their previous two games. After falling behind by as much as 12 points in the fourth quarter, Boston battled back to trail by one basket in the final minute.

The defense, which Brad Stevens said took “a lot of shortcuts” Tuesday night against the Toronto Raptors, was lively. Quite simple, the Celtics lost Wednesday not because they failed to play as a unit, but because they couldn’t make a shot when they needed to.

Boston shot 46.5 percent from the field, but was a measly 5-for-28 from beyond the arc.

Cold nights from the floor happen, and they are much easier to stomach than the seemingly hollow performances the Celtics trotted out on the road.

“I actually told the guys, like, you walk out of here a little bit more encouraged because the reason we lost, if anything, was we didn’t make shots and I think it was because we were pressing,” Stevens said after the game.

The shooting woes showed most in the second quarter, when the C’s were 8-for-23 from the floor and scored just 18 points. They also held Portland to 18 points in the quarter and trailed by only one at the half.

“I think we were disappointed in ourselves and we looked like a team that really wanted tonight to go well. And it didn’t. And you’re going to have games like that, and so, a lot more encouraged tonight than I was last night.

“Tonight, to come back and guard this team on the second night of a back-to-back and hold them under 100 … we gave ourselves a chance to win. We just didn’t score enough.”

Marcus Smart seemed to echo those sentiments.

“It was just one of those nights for us,” he said. “We have to take from that and we have to keep going. We can’t detour from this. We can’t start going downhill the next game and the game after that. We have to keep excelling and going up from here.”

Here are some more notes from Wednesday’s Celtics-Trail Blazers game:

— One night after arguably his worst game of the season, Kyrie Irving bounced back to score 31 points on a 14-for-24 night shooting. He was outscored, however, by counterpart Damian Lillard, who finished with 33 points and iced the game at the free-throw line in the closing seconds.

— The four game losing streak is the Celtics’ longest of the season.

— Despite playing the second leg of a back-to-back, the absence of Terry Rozier had Stevens turn to an eight-man rotation.

Every starter but Marcus Morris (29 minutes) logged at least 35 minutes. Jaylen Brown (10 points, 10 rebounds) played 30 minutes off the bench, Gordon Hayward (1-for-3 shooting, three points) played 27 and Daniel Theis logged 10 minutes.

— Robert Williams III logged a whopping 29 seconds, playing a pair of possessions in the fourth quarter. He came in to a huge ovation, but didn’t last long after he allowed Jusuf Nurkic to overpower him down low for an easy two points.