As one famous Bostonian put it: “It’s the same old story, same old song and dance, my friends.”
The Celtics can’t seem to snap out of their late game woes, as any win-able game has seemed to slip out of sight. The way they have played, they’ve found a ton of different ways to lose in the fourth quarter of games. Honestly, it wouldn’t be too far off to call them choke artists.
How brutal has the late game play been? Over the last 9 games (1-8), the Celtics have been outscored by 76 points in the fourth quarter alone. In comparison, during the first three quarters the Celtics have outscored opponents by 11 points.
A combination of bad team defense, and careless, sloppy and unexecuted offense plagues this team at the most critical points. You could peg this on inexperience in late game situations (duh). You could make the case they run out of intensity and energy late in games too, sure.
Losing close games is much better for this team compared to last year, when the Celtics would not even be in close games. Still, it is very frustrating to watch games lost so dramatically and so pitifully in the fourth quarter. Tough times are bound to happen when in rebuilding with a young team and second year coach. They should not however, lose large 4th quarter leads in 6 out of the last 9 games. Needless to say, if I am Brad Stevens I am going to back to drawing board.
From this rough patch, the season could play out one of two ways. Before you learn how to win, you need to learn how to lose.. yadi yadi yada. The more close game situations this team faces, the more opportunities this team work out the kinks and find ways to win games. The team will find out their best go-to-players, late-game lineups, out of bounds plays, etc.
Or, they’ll continue to flail down the stretch of games. They won’t figure out how to win close games, which will hurt their confidence, and more so, their record. Marquee players like Green, Bass and Rondo will look to be shipped out of town. Rumors are already surfacing – don’t expect them to go away anytime soon if the Celtics continue to hand over games.
I’m not convinced the 4th quarter woes will subside. The team has not found a go-to player, which is a huge issue. The closest thing they have is Jeff Green. If I were Brad Stevens, I would integrate and test out a few different bench players to play with the starters down the stretch. Particularly shooters and play-makers on offense, like Marcus Thorton, Marcus Smart or even someone like James Young. If they hit a big shot or play well down the stretch, try them out again and see if they can come through for the team.
The Celtics desperately need clutch 4th quarter play. Could a guy like Marcus Thorton be the answer?
The Celtics are a young team, and because they are young, they lack leadership and go-to clutch playing down the stretch. These things need to be a priority for the month of December for coach Stevens.
The schedule gets easier for the C’s in the month of December. That, and the addition of Marcus Smart will solidify this team on both sides of the ball. In short, the Celtics have to dig themselves out of a hole and get close to .500 by the new year.
We will learn a lot about what this team is in the coming month. Their resiliency and mental toughness is being challenged after to a dreadful, heartbreaking month of November. How they play in December will be an indication as to what kind of team they will be for the rest of the regular season.