CLEVELAND — Marcus Morris thought his defense on LeBron James was “s—,” Jaylen Brown said his lack of offensive aggression was “embarrassing,” and Al Horford admitted the Boston Celtics were “out of sync” after the team digested film Sunday of their lopsided Game 3 loss to the Cavaliers.
But Celtics players were also adamant that they expect a much different effort when the two teams meet in Game 4 on Monday night (ESPN, 8:30 p.m. ET).
“That [Celtics] team we saw [in Game 3], I’m 100 percent sure it won’t be the same team on Monday,” Morris said. “After watching film, we did a lot of things that caused us to be in the position that we’re in. I said before, control the controllables, and we didn’t do that.”
Celtics players were loose while going through a light workout at Quicken Loans Arena on Sunday afternoon, eager to move on from an embarrassing effort that trimmed their lead to 2-1 in the Eastern Conference finals.
Morris blamed himself for allowing LeBron James to get going early in Game 3. Morris, who before the series dubbed himself one of the best James defenders in the NBA, had backed up his talk through the first two games of the series. But James scored more points against Morris in Game 3 (12) than he did in Games 1 and 2 combined (11).
“Personally, I think I did a s— job defensively with LeBron. He was too comfortable when I was guarding him,” Morris said. “I made myself very vulnerable on screens and wasn’t disciplined. We can’t have that in a game of this magnitude, and it showed. They did a great job of exposing that. Personally, I think I have to do better.
“I watched the first two games and how we defended them and how I defended [James] personally and, like I said, [Game 3] I just thought I did a terrible job. I made myself very vulnerable and got screened a lot, and he made his space. He’s a great player and that’s what he does, so we have to fix that.”
“I use [Game 3] as fuel. I thought it was embarrassing. Thought we came out, the way I played, the way I performed, how not aggressive I was in the first half, I look at that as fuel to come out in Game 4 and be excited about it and be ready to play and ready to fight.”
Brown struggled mightily at both ends early in Game 3, picking up two early fouls that left him timid defensively, and he failed to give Boston his usual offensive jolt, something the team desperately needed as the Cavaliers separated early.
“I use [Game 3] as fuel. I thought it was embarrassing,” Brown said. “Thought we came out, the way I played, the way I performed, how not aggressive I was in the first half, I look at that as fuel to come out in Game 4 and be excited about it and be ready to play and ready to fight.
“As a mindset, the game is 90 percent mental, so everything that we do affects our mindset. We can’t look at the last game and get down on ourselves or think we’re out of the series because we lost one game. That’s what the world thinks, that’s what the world wants us to think, so we’re going to come out and play some basketball [in Game 4], regardless of what anybody got to say.”
The Cavaliers held Horford without a field goal attempt in the first quarter, and Boston’s All-Star big man finished with just four shots overall in 30 minutes. Horford sounded confident he would have more opportunities in Game 4.
“I just think that we were a little out of sync,” Horford said. “I think that [in Game 4] we’ll be better in making sure that we have better ball movement. I’m not worried about that. I know I’ll be able to get more shots tomorrow.”
Celtics players said they watched a lot of film before Sunday’s workout, something Horford said he embraced with a desire to dissect why Boston was so flat.
Stevens said he didn’t want his team to linger too much on what went wrong but to be aware of where improvements need to be made.
“I think, as coaches, you probably watch it over and over and over and over, and then you try to just trim it to what’s necessary,” Stevens said. “This team is, again, prideful, competitive. They’ve been resilient. Nobody felt good leaving the gym last night. Nobody felt good when they woke up this morning.
“And so I think that we have to look at what we can do better. There is a physical component to that, and we have to be honest and watch the film and see the things that we got outworked on and see the things that we can just execute better on both ends.”
Celtics players were happy not to have to linger on Saturday’s loss.
“That left a bad taste in our mouths,” Marcus Smart said. “So we want a chance to redeem ourselves.”