Celtics Coach Ime Udoka talks with Marcus Smart during the second half of Boston’s 128-114 loss to the Chicago Bulls on Monday in Boston. Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

Coming into the season, there was considerable attention on Marcus Smart. This Celtics offense was about to become his show after Kemba Walker was shipped out as Smart slid into the starting point guard spot.

There was a healthy amount of discourse about Smart wanting the ball in his hands, which Boston Coach Ime Udoka spoke about during the preseason. Even as the Celtics added surrounding pieces to complement Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, they were expecting to lean into Smart’s playmaking prowess after leading the team in assists last season.

But as the Celtics stumble to a 2-5 start this season, that visions hasn’t been seen. Smart said he wants the ball in his hands more – and for Tatum and Brown to pass more because they “don’t want to pass the ball and that’s something they’re going to have to learn.”

“There’s only so much I can do without the ball in my hands, I’m just standing in the corner,” Smart said after Monday’s 128-114 loss to Chicago, with the Celtics getting outscored 39-11 in the fourth quarter. “We’re running plays for our best players, every team knows that. They do a good job of shutting that down. We can’t allow that. When they shut that down, we can’t keep trying to go to those guys. We gotta avoid that and find another way to give them the ball in the spots where they need the ball.”

The Celtics’ issues spread team-wide Monday in the decisive fourth quarter. It was a devastating collapse for a team looking for its first home win of the season and one which built a 19-point second-half lead.

Smart, to his credit, had a solid shooting night, going 5 for 11 for 16 points. But the worrisome mark was the zero assists he had as the team’s starting point guard. But that perhaps goes back to his point about putting the ball more in his hands.

The shooting numbers for Smart this season, though, have been a tough watch. He’s only hit 29.3% of his field goals, including a 28.2% mark on his 3-pointers. Of course, just because Smart’s shooting numbers are low doesn’t affect his ability as a playmaker, which he pointed out.

“If I’m getting in the lane and I’m making it easy for other guys, I’m making it easier for everybody,” Smart said. “Even if my shots aren’t falling, the threat that I put on teams coming off the pick-and-roll and getting to the basket or being in the post. Teams are doubling me in the post and if they do, everybody knows I’m a great passer and I’m going to find guys.”

Smart said he wants to take some of the workload off Tatum and Brown, who combined for 40 field-goal attempts Monday. By doing so, he said they’re not exhausting themselves on the offensive end during crunch time of a close game.

But Smart also added the All-Star duo needs to pass to their teammates or become more playmakers. Tatum scored just two points in the fourth quarter, going 1-for-8 from the floor. Brown was scoreless and took just two shots after exploding in his previous three quarters of play.

Smart said “every team knows we are trying to go to Jayson and Jaylen” on every play, and those teams are programmed to stop the two. That’s when Smart said he wants his teammates to pass the ball more.

“They’re still learning and we’re proud of the progress they are making,” Smart said. “But they are going to have to make another step and find ways to not only create for themselves but create for others on this team, to open up the court for them later in the game where they don’t always have to take those tough shots or take tough matchups when they do get the 1-on-1 and see a trap.”

WHILE ALL EYES are on a putrid fourth quarter, both Udoka and Al Horford pointed to the end of the third quarter when the Celtics started to crumble from their lead. Boston built a lead that peaked at 19 points in the third, looking like it was going to cruise to victory.

Of course, the Bulls had other plans as they rallied from the massive deficit. That run started late in the third, Udoka said, based on how the visitors were playing. They were still aggressive, attacking the bucket and getting out in transition, which is a key weakness of the Celtics. While the Bulls got buckets, the Celtics were still countering with shots of their own, at least through the third.

But all those Celtics looks quickly dried up in the fourth quarter. It was a culmination of the Celtics thus far this season, as their one consistency is their inconsistency. The offense, defense and resolve disappeared over the final 12 minutes as they were dealt an embarrassing blow – one Udoka said they have to learn lessons from.

“(Udoka) kind of stressed to us to make sure that we didn’t let the foot off the gas and I feel like we coasted a little bit,” Horford said. “And then at the beginning of the fourth, I take some blame there because I don’t feel like I kind of brought that urgency. And as a team, we didn’t start with the urgency that we needed.”

Related Headlines

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.