The Celtics have a problem they better fix quickly

Nick Friar
March 09, 2020 - 6:15 am
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It’s impossible to look at the Celtics’ collapse on Sunday and not think of the game they coughed up against the Nets less than a week ago.

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In part, because the Celtics had a sizeable lead, then they let the game slip away. What was more noticeable, though, was the Celtics player who had the ball in his hands on what should’ve been the final possession of the game. Instead, Dennis Schroder stole the ball, scored and the Thunder won 105-104 after Jayson Tatum couldn’t nail his shot in what wound up being Boston’s final possession. (For a complete recap of the Celtics' loss, click here.)

However, Tatum was not the one who turned the ball over. That was Kemba Walker — the same player who lost the ball on Boston’s final possession against Brooklyn Tuesday on a jump ball forced by Rodions Kurucs.

“It’s frustrating,” Walker said after the loss. “I mean that’s the second time it’s happened in three games. I just got to be better and just find a way.”

Brad Stevens and Walker’s teammates didn’t pin the loss on him, nor should they. The Celtics let another solid lead get away, this time with Gordon Hayward re-inserted in the lineup.

And even with everything that went wrong in the game, Tatum still had the chance to play hero on the last possession.

“(Chris Paul is) a good defender, but I got the shot I wanted,” Tatum said. “Just a tough night. Shots weren’t going in, but I felt good.”

Whether or not Tatum hit the shot, the issue with Walker is still there.

As much as Paul “did an amazing job,” as Stevens put it, and Schroder finished off the play well, it seemed like the Celtics had no idea what was coming. On top of it all, they still had a timeout remaining. Stevens could’ve made the call to regroup when he saw the double coming and Paul — who had two fouls to his name — didn’t try to send Walker to the free-throw line. Hindsight is 20-20, but the Thunder not fouling Walker instantly should’ve indicated to the Celtics something was up.

“I know (Walker is) down about it, but they made a good defensive play on that,” Stevens said. “Those are things we obviously have to get better at, but he did the right thing.”

Now, this is only Boston’s second rough patch of the season, and all teams go through these. But if the Celtics don’t acknowledge the mistakes being made or the flaws some individuals may have, then they’re not going to grow from this experience.

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