The Celtics didn’t lose the game solely in the fourth quarter on Tuesday night against a loaded Jazz team. A nightmare third quarter in which they allowed 42 points on 60 percent shooting dug a double-digit hole for the visitors before the final frame even began.
Still, just as the Celtics have given themselves a chance on so many nights this season, they clawed their way back into the contest. Utah’s lead was down from 11 to four with five minutes remaining, putting the visitors within striking distance of finishing the West Coast swing on an upbeat note. However, a familiar trend surfaced instead. Boston failed to get stops in crunch time, watching the Jazz run away with a 122-108 victory thanks to a to 17-7 game-closing run. The performance brought some pointed words from Jaylen Brown after the frustrating defeat.
“We f****** should take it personally,” Brown said of the late-game showmanship from Utah. “The fourth quarter was embarrassing. That's the time we are supposed to be our grittiest and it seems like we just fell apart in a sense and that's a lack of toughness and a lack of leadership and a lot of that is on me. As a leader of this team, I take responsibility for how we respond and how we come out and in the fourth quarter, it just wasn't there for us.”
Brown did his part on the offensive end for much of the night from a leadership standpoint (33 points) but a lack of grit in the fourth quarter has been a familiar trend for this group again this year, particularly in close games.
In a strong 8-3 start to the year, the C’s were having their way in tight games (5-2), however, the pendulum has shifted since Kemba Walker’s return to the lineup last month. Since then? Boston has gone 2-8 in clutch situations with a whopping -28.8 net rating in those situations (five minutes or less, five-point margin or less).
Zoom out further and the results become even more discouraging late in games. Boston has a -9.6 net rating on the season in the fourth quarter which ranks 29th in the league. Its defense ranks 27th in the NBA during that period which is serving as the main culprit for those woes.
While Brown pointed at the fourth quarter in particular on Tuesday night, it was really the entire second half where the team