What a miserable fourth quarter vs. Nets says about Celtics

Nick Friar
March 04, 2020 - 6:30 am
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Fifty-one points in the fourth quarter. Fifty-one.

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To a Nets team that doesn’t have Kyrie Irving and lost its previous four games before visiting Boston on Tuesday.

The Celtics’ 129-120 loss to Brooklyn was their worst of the season. No doubt about it. (For a complete recap of the Celtics' loss, click here.)

“We deserved to lose,” Brad Stevens said after Tuesday’s loss, punctuating his postgame press conference.

Now, Caris LeVert is a good player, but he should not be scoring 26 points in a quarter against the Celtics. He did so in the fourth.

LeVert especially shouldn’t be able to do what he did on Tuesday when he’s on the floor without all of Brooklyn’s other starters — Taurean Prince was the only other Nets starter who played at all in the fourth, and he logged a measly 14 seconds.

Doesn’t matter Jayson Tatum was out sick or that Gordon Hayward didn’t return after the first half due to a right knee contusion. Even with Jaylen Brown battling a hamstring problem as the game progressed, Kemba Walker was on the floor for almost eight minutes in the fourth and Marcus Smart played close to 10.

If the Celtics have two of their five best players at their disposal and their defensive-minded bench fully available for the fourth quarter, they should not lose a game in which they lead by 17 points going into the final 12 minutes of action.

“Definitely a tough loss,” Walker said. “Probably the toughest one of the year. But, you know, the greatest thing about this league is we play again tomorrow.”

In Walker’s case, he doesn’t get to play on Wednesday. He said he is not traveling to Cleveland with the team. But his point is clear, and valid.

However, the Celtics can ignore a collapse like this.

Daniel Theis should not have only played 3:17 in the fourth. He was called for his fifth foul when there were roughly seven minutes left in the game, so it’s understandable Stevens turned to Robert Williams — who actually scored eight points in the fourth and did some things well. But Time Lord has been out a while. With the lead was slipping significantly, Stevens should have brought Theis in well before the one minute mark — which is right around when Boston’s starting center re-entered after picking up his fifth foul.

The Celtics also turned to Semi Ojeleye in overtime after he had not played the entire night. Where was he when the Celtics could only get four stops in the fourth quarter?

But as much as Stevens made some poor decisions, the Celtics reserves could’ve taken advantage of their opportunities. Boston’s bench did not come out of the loss looking good.

If that group isn’t going to provide offense, those players have to be lock-down on the defensive end. What LeVert did against the Celtics in the fourth quarter, and overtime, doesn’t happen against a lock-down defense.

The Celtics’ top-six players are good — that’s quite evident — but Stevens needs to have a grip on how he wants to utilize the rest of his roster. Clearly, the Celtics head coach still has work to do.

And this ridiculous loss came in the middle of the Celtics’ hunt for the second seed in the Eastern Conference. The Raptors, the team Boston is chasing, won on Tuesday and hold a 1.5-game lead for the No. 2 spot in the Conference.

Rough day for the Celtics, all around.

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