At their worst this season, the Boston Celtics were one of the NBA's worst-performing teams in the fourth quarter. Before the All-Star break, the Celtics ranked 20th in fourth-quarter field goal percentage (44.6%), had the 8th-worst fourth-quarter offensive rating (109), and third-worst net rating (-5.7).
"I’ve seen so many good things in so many games this year, but there are moments and quarters that have been a disaster - far below what we’re capable of doing," Danny Ainge said after the trade deadline. He noted the fourth quarters as one of the reasons why he acquired Evan Fournier.
And though Fournier's perfect 20-point fourth quarter against the Houston Rockets certainly helped make Boston's post-break numbers look a tiny bit better, the team has flipped the narrative over their recent hot streak.
"Just making the plays, really," Kemba Walker said after the win over Golden State. "Getting the stops that we really need. Making the shots that we really need down the stretch. I think, most importantly, just in our togetherness, our poise at the end of the games has been helping us a lot. Yeah man, that's really what it is."
The team as a whole is now shooting 47.7% in fourth quarters since the break, third-best in the league. Their offensive rating has jumped by nearly nine points and their +10 net rating is 7th best in the league. Their defensive rating has dropped from 114.7 to 107.8 in fourth quarters since the break.
They're shooting better, scoring more, and holding opponents to fewer points. That's a winning formula.
Before the break, Boston was outscored in fourth quarters 16 times, four of them by double digits. Since the break, Boston has only lost seven fourth quarters, and two by double digits. It's only happened twice in nine April games, and one of those was that wild Lakers finish against the third string, which was a complete aberration.
All of Boston's core four players (Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart, and Walker), have seen increases in their fourth-quarter shooting, especially in April.