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If Celtics have title hopes, then late-game process needs improvement

If Celtics have title hopes, then late-game process needs improvement originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

Nineteen.

Jayson Tatum dribbled the ball 19 times before hoisting the final shot in Cleveland on Tuesday night, a back-rim miss on a contested fadeaway as the Celtics fumbled away a 22-point fourth-quarter lead and watched their 11-game winning streak end against the undermanned Cavaliers.

The Celtics had 19.1 seconds to generate a quality look, chase a second-chance opportunity, and/or foul to extend the game. Instead, Tatum dribbled the ball 19 times while Joe Mazzulla’s overdue request for a timeout went unnoticed, and the Celtics suffered a loss for the first time in over a month.

Let’s get a few disclaimers out of the way here before we (mildly) vent:

The Celtics had a horrendous fourth quarter that featured plenty of missteps, which only served as the lukewarm appetizer for the overcooked final possession. The Celtics never should have been in a spot where Tatum even had the chance to dribble out the final 19.1 seconds and settle for a suboptimal look.

Boston has been much better in crunch-time games (score within five points, final five minutes) this season. In 2022, the Celtics were an impossibly bad 13-22 in crunch-time games and still marched to the NBA Finals. History suggests there is no such thing as crunch time momentum and teams can spend the season learning how to thrive in late-game situations.

It feels unseemly to vent about a team with a 48-13 record with a 7.5-game lead over the nearest rival in the Eastern Conference. But with championship aspirations comes heightened scrutiny of the miscues. And late-game execution is one of the few nits we can still pick with this obviously talented team.

But now the venting: Tatum absolutely cannot go that slowly on the final possession. Mazzulla absolutely cannot let Tatum go that slowly on the final possession. A team that prides itself on playing with pace, moving the basketball, and identifying an ideal matchup cannot settle for a 19-dribble fadeaway.

A single loss does not change how we view this team. The Celtics are still the championship…


Source link : https://sports.yahoo.com/celtics-title-hopes-then-game-141734034.html

Author : NBC Sports Boston

Publish date : 2024-03-06 14:17:34

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