Everything you need to know about the Celtics’ 110-107 loss to the Dallas Mavericks with BSJ insight and analysis:
Luka Doncic is a superstar: This is what superstars do. When what they’ve built falls to the ground, a superstar finds a way to will his team to a win. Doncic did it twice, once with Dallas down one, and once when it was tied. There wasn’t much the Celtics could do about the final 30 seconds of the game.
Same old problems: Before their furious comeback, the Celtics were experiencing the same old issues. They were fouling too much (more on that shortly), taking early jumpers and leaving them short, and giving up too many good looks defensively. Some might have hoped for a strong response to the Pelicans loss, but they didn’t have that sense of urgency until the end.
At least they showed some heart: If there’s any sort of silver lining in this, it’s that Boston didn’t quit. They came all the way back in the final three minutes and took a lead. It’s a small consolation right now, considering the Celtics have lost 7 of 10 and are now a game below .500.
Robert Williams fouled with the game tied at 87 and 7:15 to go in the game. By going into the penalty so early, the Celtics didn’t have a foul to give late in the game, meaning they never had the option of fouling Doncic to stop the play and force another inbounds pass.
“It's a killer,” Brad Stevens said after the game. “ We don't have a foul to give. So if we can switch up into Doncic's air space at 50 feet and foul him, that's a totally different deal. We've gotta balance — we're trying to be more physical because we need to be. But we've gotta balance that with fouling. I think we're getting a lot of fouls that we can improve upon.”
Robert Williams only played 14:05 tonight. It might be because he’s going to play more minutes against Atlanta Wednesday and Brad Stevens doesn’t want to overdo it due to Williams’ problematic left hip. If Williams gets bigger minutes against the Hawks, then this is understandable, so consider this a delayed second guess.
Kemba Walker in the fourth quarter: He shook off some cold shooting to go 5-8 in the quarter, including 3-5 from deep on his way to 14 points.
Jaylen Brown: His fourth quarter wasn’t too shabby either. He was 5-7, including a go-ahead and then game-tying basket in the final minute. If Doncic misses either of those shots, we’re celebrating Brown’s All-Star selection with his 10 point, 2 rebound, 1 assist, 1 steal final quarter.
Payton Pritchard: The rookie is struggling right now, leaving the Celtics with very little help off the bench. In his first 10 games, Pritchard shot 51.6% from the field, 42.3% from 3, and was giving Boston nearly 9 points per game off the bench. In his last 5 games, Pritchard is shooting 36.4% from the field, 16.7% from beyond the arc and his scoring is down to 6 points per game.
Jayson Tatum’s shot selection: Maybe this is a function of tired legs (the Celtics in general missed short a lot), but Tatum really needs to give it a rest with the mid-range shots.
He needs to get to the rim a lot more. That’s the bottom line.
Perimeter defense: They gave up another 48 points in the paint. On the bright side, they only gave up 18 in the second half. In the first half, they gave up a ton at the rim, which has been a problem during this skid.
ONE TAKE KARALIS WILL PROBABLY REGRET LATER
Anyone who has golfed knows about that one shot that keeps you coming back to the course. No matter if you shot a 115, there was a drive, or chip, or putt in that gross mess that you hang your hat on and that keeps you coming back.
This is what that fourth quarter run was for me.
The Celtics still aren’t very good right now. But what they showed in that moment is an unwillingness to flat-out quit, and that’s meaningful.
“You get told something over the course of a season. You get real information over the course of 20, 30, 40, 50 games,” Stevens said after the game. “We can play with that kind of poise in the last five minutes of games the rest of the year, then we'll be better than we've been up to this point. But we have to improve a lot.”
The Celtics just aren’t this bad of a team.
Yes, I know I come off like Frank Drebin standing in front of an exploding fireworks factory saying there’s nothing to see here. The reality is that I do see all the fireworks. I do see everything you see. I do understand that there are some really disturbing trends with this team.
Where I differ from a lot of people is that I still see missing information here. What is this team like when it’s whole? What impact does Marcus Smart have with these starters? What will the rotations be when Stevens can’t go double-big?
I’m certainly not going to sit here and tell you everything is fine. But I’m not leaving the Celtics for dead, either.