The Boston Celtics continued their dubious run this season of being one of the worst fourth quarter teams in the NBA with a collapse at Madison Square Garden that is arguably their worst of the season.
After leading by 25 in the first half and 16 at halftime, Boston saw Evan Fournier erupt for 41 points and RJ Barrett bank in a ridiculous game-winning three at the buzzer to fall to 18-21 on the season. Jayson Tatum was spectacular, with 36 points, nine assists, and six rebounds in the loss, including hitting the game-tying bucket just before the Barrett buzzer-beater, but after scoring just 42 second half points (21 in both quarters), much of the talk after was about a Boston offense that far too often goes off the rails and fails to create good looks in critical situations.
Among those offering the most scathing critiques of their latest performance was head coach Ime Udoka, who called out his team for getting rattled and said, frankly, “we need some leadership” on the court in those situations to calm things down.
Ime Udoka: “Repetitive result… we need some leadership. Somebody that can calm us down and not get rattled when everything starts to go a little south” pic.twitter.com/NL8b2t8j7S
— Celtics on NBC Sports Boston (@NBCSCeltics) January 7, 2022
It is about as blunt as you’ll get from a coach in this situation, and it’s not hard to see this as an indictment of the Celtics’ two stars, Tatum and Jaylen Brown, through which so much of their offense runs. It’s clear that Udoka is trying to push some buttons to get a better response out of his team and his stars, but to this point, what he’s tried has not worked as the Celtics far too often look stagnant in fourth quarters. Thursday night was no different,
The problem is, these frustrations aren’t new (Marcus Smart called this out in the first month of the season) and we’re now at the midway point with little to show in the way of improvement from Boston in key situations beyond a few glimmers of hope. For a team that hoped to be a contender in the East this season, there’s an awfully long way to go to get there, and getting on the same page from the coaching staff to the players is just the start.