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DETROIT, MICHIGAN - JANUARY 01: Jayson Tatum #0 of the Boston Celtics looks on during the fourth quarter against the Detroit Pistons at Little Caesars Arena on January 01, 2021 in Detroit, Michigan. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images)

By Sean Sylver, 98.5 The Sports Hub

Celtics fans dreaming of the day Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum and Kemba Walker would be together again got a rude awakening (and not the pro wrestling kind) Wednesday night against the Spurs. While the trio combined for 63 points, they made a mediocre 42 percent of their field goal attempts and the team as a whole logged just 15 assists in a 110-106 defeat that was their fourth setback in six games.

But the offense wasn’t the main problem. Boston’s defense ceded 56 percent shooting to San Antonio, who made just 8-of-28 attempts from deep but dominated the Celtics in the paint and placed six players in double figures.

“I wish I knew the answer,” Danny Ainge told Toucher & Rich. “You just don’t go on the road and give up 56 percent shooting and win very often.”

While Ainge noted the team’s recent spate of injuries and a lack of practice time, he refused to make excuses.

“Every team is going through the same stuff, so we’re not in any different situation. We’ve gotta step it up.”

“We played solidly defensively in stretches and then we just wouldn’t get the rebound; we wouldn’t finish off the possession.”

Defensive execution should be a top priority Saturday night against a Lakers team that features LeBron James and Anthony Davis and ranks inside the top ten in the NBA in scoring, rebounding and field goal percentage.

Sky’s the limit

Jan 17, 2021; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; New York Knicks guard Elfrid Payton (6) defends against Boston Celtics guard Jaylen Brown (7) in the second quarter at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Jaylen Brown chipped in a ho-hum 24 points in Wednesday night’s loss, breaking a streak of five consecutive contests in which he scored 25 or more. He topped out with a career-high 42 against the 76ers last Friday night.

The fifth year pro had a nice streak last year when he scored 17 or more points in 23 consecutive games starting in January, but his scoring exploits this season have been on another level. The Cal product has failed to top 20 just twice this season, finishing with 18 in a loss to the Pacers after Christmas, and 19 in a win against Toronto just after New Year’s.

About a quarter of the way into the season, Brown ranks seventh in the NBA in scoring.

Rated rookie

Jan 22, 2021; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Boston Celtics guard Payton Pritchard (11) holds his knee after being injured against the Philadelphia 76ers at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Jan 22, 2021; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Boston Celtics guard Payton Pritchard (11) holds his knee after being injured against the Philadelphia 76ers at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Top draft pick Aaron Nesmith recently got some minutes and looked like he can hang at the pro level. After making just five of 23 shots in his first five appearances, he shot a tidy 7-for-11 (4-of-6 from downtown) for a combined 20 points in wins over Cleveland and Chicago.

Meanwhile, Ainge recently gave an update on breakout rookie Payton Pritchard, who suffered an MCL sprain a week ago.

“Payton is getting better,” he said. “He was out shooting around before the game [Wednedsay] and moving OK.

“He’s probably at least week away before he gets back on the court. I’m not sure when he’ll be back playing, but he’s making good strides.”

Coming up next

The Celtics host the defending champion Lakers at home on Saturday night. Tipoff is 8:30 pm on 98.5 The Sports Hub.

Sean Sylver can be heard on 98.5 The Sports Hub. Talk hoops with him on Twitter @TheSylverFox.