Everything you need to know about the Celtics’ 120-115 loss to the New Orleans Pelicans with BSJ insight and analysis:
Fourth-quarter execution dooms Boston once again: The Boston Celtics' fourth quarter net rating after this game is now -7.8, second-worst in the NBA ahead of only Cleveland’s -8.8. Once again their fourth-quarter execution failed them. Once again, the team devolves into isolation play when things go wrong and if the shots don’t fall, the lead starts to shrink.
A few makes would have been nice: The Celtics did actually generate some open shots that simply didn’t fall. Kemba Walker was 1-12 from deep. Jaylen Brown was 3-10. Granted, some of those looks might have felt better coming off some ball movement, but many of those shots were still very make-able. Walker’s open 3 at 7:14, or at 6:25, or at :37 could have changed the entire feeling of this game.
“We were never able to hit the big shot or two to keep the lead where it was as they were coming back,” Brad Stevens said after the game. “And on the other end of the floor they spread us out and drove us right to the rim.”
Which brings us to...
They stopped playing defense. New Orleans shot 52% in the fourth quarter, with 9 makes coming inside the restricted area. Look at this shot chart:
That’s a disgusting defensive performance in the fourth, some of which involved some sleepwalking transition defense. They allowed a ton of dribble penetration, they fouled, and they let the Pelicans get comfortable.
The Celtics went 4:06 without a basket in the fourth quarter as the lead shrunk from 91-78 to 93-90.
Robert Williams had been feasting on the Pelicans and the threat of lobs to him helped Boston grow their lead. However, with the Boston lead shrinking in the fourth quarter and Boston clearly struggling to stop the Pelicans, Stevens kept Williams on the bench until the game was tied with 4:10 to go. The Celtics needed some kind of energy shift, and Stevens should have tried Williams sooner.
Robert Williams. Nearly everything good in the late fourth quarter and overtime involved Williams somehow. He made some ridiculous plays and was generally solid in all facets of the game.
The first half. It’s hard to believe that the same guys who played a nearly flawless first half were the same guys who soiled themselves down the stretch. We had been witnessing a gem from the Celtics, and then it all fell apart.
Everyone not wearing #44 in the fourth quarter/overtime: I can single everyone out, but this was a collective effort. The Celtics as a whole, from the top down, need to find a way to stop collapses like this. A -7.8 net rating in fourth quarters is disgusting. Boston has the sixth-best first half net rating (6.4) and eighth-worst second half net rating (-3.4).
It’s impossible for them to hold leads. Whatever it is that they need to do to fix this, it’s very obvious that they need to find someone or some kind of approach to stabilize things down the stretch.
I don’t know how Robert Williams catches some of these lobs
TWO TAKES KARALIS WILL PROBABLY REGRET LATER
Something is brewing with Jaylen Brown: Brown was asked after the loss to the Washington Wizards why the ball wasn’t moving. His answer: “no comment.”
After this loss to New Orleans, he was asked why the offense stagnates after the opposing defense shuts down the first action. His answer: “no comment.”
Well, at some point the no comments become comments, and considering both questions had to do with the ball not moving well, that tells me there’s something here. Especially when he did actually answer the question of whether this loss was more mental by saying “we’ve just got to mature and grow up. We were really moving and getting guys involved... That's one of the things that I've been trying to do, to look to get other guys involved. I think that's better for our team, but definitely gotta come out and find ways to win. We dropped the ball tonight.”
So Brown won’t comment on the ball not moving, and he won’t comment on the offense stagnating, but he will say that he’s been trying to move the ball and get guys involved.
Brown had 9 of Boston’s 22 assists in this game. Brown took four shots in the fourth quarter.
These are frustrating times for the Celtics, and if they’re not careful, it’s going to seep into the locker room. The fatigue that these guys are feeling can lead to burnout, and it can all build up to something no one wants to see.
Fans make a difference: The Pelicans had fans in the stands, and when they were making their run, those fans were making themselves heard. One thing that everyone in the league acknowledges this season is that fans in seats make a difference, and hearing them at home during a run gives that home team some extra juice.
A young team like New Orleans loves having some fans there to help get their adrenaline flowing. Boston's late struggles are a big issue, and having the Pelicans feed off their small, but the present home crowd didn't help.