Teams coached by Brad Stevens throughout his tenure at Butler and in Boston have widely been considered polished groups. However, that has not been something that has been routinely said about this Celtics squad. Between taking bad shots and mismanaging end of quarter situations, the Celtics have had more than their fair share of ugly gaffes throughout an underwhelming 42-27 campaign to this point.
Two particularly egregious miscues came in the final 70 seconds of Saturday’s 129-120 win over the Atlanta Hawks (who are playing much better than their 24-46 record).
Marcus Morris was in the process of putting the finishing touches on a promising performance. He had broken out of a lengthy slump with two straight double-doubles (19 points, 11 rebounds) helping the starters bail out the bench for blowing a 25-point lead in just 10 minutes (more on that later). The Celtics clung to a three-possession lead with 90 seconds remaining but a Kevin Huerter 3 cut the lead down to five with 65 seconds remaining.
From there, Morris made inexcusable mistake No. 1: Throwing in a lazy inbounds pass that allowed Huerter to sneak in for a steal.
This is a bad enough play when it happens midway through the second quarter. When a guy manages to pull this type of steal off in a two-possession game with 1:05 remaining, it’s as egregious as it gets. Luckily for the Celtics, Huerter blew two point-blank layup opportunities and Kyrie Irving was able to corral the rebound. Bullet dodged? Not just yet.
The Celtics had numbers after corraling the loose ball and pushed the ball up the floor with a secondary break. Kyrie Irving proceeded to kick the ball to the left wing where Morris had a relatively open look at a 3 in the midst of a 4-on-2 break. The problem? No one in the NBA should take this shot, minus maybe Steph Curry when you consider the situation. The Celtics had a five-point lead with a minute remaining, which makes the clock their enemy. Boston can obviously take a shot in this spot to add to the lead in theory, but it needs to be a high probability attempt (i.e. a layup or dunk) or come after significant time is taken off the clock (i.e. shorten the game or force the Hawks to foul).
Morris is a 37.9 percent 3-point shooter this year so a wide-open 3 still does not qualify as a high probability shot, especially when it comes above the break with 19 seconds left on the shot clock and 52 seconds remaining in the game.