Brad Stevens is running out of time to fix the defenseless Celtics

(Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

At least there was no finger-pointing afterward.

That was the extent of positives one could come up with after the Celtics’ 115-96 drubbing at the hands of the Spurs on Sunday night. Amid a lengthy postgame team meeting, after the C’s tied their season-high with a fourth straight loss, the tenor from the locker room was surprisingly optimistic. Kyrie Irving didn’t reference the young guys or question strategy in his postgame remarks. Marcus Smart didn’t go off on anyone. Instead, both stayed upbeat and focused on the future in the wake the worst home loss of the year for Boston.

“We’re all trying to, you know, we got a lot of guys back and we’re all trying to figure out exactly what everybody’s favorite things to do and what spots that everybody excels at and make sure we get everybody in the right position,” Smart explained. “We’re still fooling with it, but I see great progress, and I’m excited, I’m ecstatic, and I’m happy with what we’re doing. Yeah we’ve been losing, and it’s been frustrating, but that’s the beauty of this game. We get to go play another one and we get another chance to go out there and work on things we need to work on.”

If this type of optimism sound familiar, it’s because we have heard it before. The Celtics carried a similar tone after losing four straight last month. Moving forward with positive vibes is certainly better than the finger pointing but it wasn’t the answer for the team’s woes back then and it still isn’t likely to be so now. This group was obviously down bodies on Sunday night in Al Horford and Jayson Tatum, but they have been a mediocre team for the past two months now, along with a bottom-10 defense in the NBA.

“Ultimately, we don’t need to ride the emotional roller coaster; we need to get a lot better,” Brad Stevens declared. “We’ve given up 115 or more in a lot of games here recently, and our defense has to improve dramatically if we’re going to make a push to ultimately get what we want out of the next couple of months.”

The dropoff has been noticeable for anyone watching this group all year long. The starting five that carried the team through the middle of the season has fallen off a cliff in terms of production in recent weeks. Lapses have been prevalent in all sections of the roster on defense and it’s produced a steady decline in performance.