The Celtics were up by as many as 22 points on Saturday but watched the lead whittle down to almost nothing. If you think that sounds familiar, it is because something similar has happened 6 times already this year.
Here's the rundown by our friend Jimmy Toscano.
12/6: Celtics lead Nuggets by 24 points to start second quarter. Lead is cut to three points. Boston holds on, 106-98
12/13: Celtics lead Knicks by 17 points in 2nd quarter. Knicks tie it midway through 3rd quarter. Knicks take 11-point lead in 4th before Boston goes on 10-0 run. Boston comes back and wins, 90-86.
12/18 - Celtics lead Pistons by 21 points early in 2nd quarter. Celtics shoot 29.2-percent from field in third quarter to allow Pistons to trail by one point going into 4th quarter. Celtics Lose, 107-106.
12/21 - Celtics lead Wizards by 18 points early in 2nd quarter. Outscored by Wizards 22-7 in final six minutes of game. Lost 106-99.
And then, of course, Saturday's 19-point 4th-quarter lead that was cut down to two in the final seconds.
For those scoring at home, the Celtics won 3 and lost 3 of those games. That's only natural, since the game is close at the end - regardless of how you got there - and the Celtics are right around .500 on the season.
Still, it is not the kind of trend you want to keep seeing. I think the obvious blame can be placed on the shoulders of the young, inconsistent players that make up this roster. They seem to get overconfident and satisfied with what they've accomplish and ease up the intensity when they are up big. Every NBA team has a run or two in them, and when Boston lets down their guard, the team makes their move.
I don't know one way or another, but I'll go ahead and wonder out loud about how much of it goes on the coaching staff as well. Is it possible that other coaches are seeing something in the game, making an adjustment, and attacking whatever weakness that the Celtics can't counter-attack fast enough to? I doubt that anything major gets past Stevens in terms of seeing what's happening. But I wonder if he's able to communicate to the players what to do and how to combat it most effectively. This will be critical during the playoffs (whenever they play in them).
My gut tells me that it is more the players than the coach, but there may be some combination of both. Perhaps the gameplan that the C's start out with works to perfection at the beginning of the game, the other team either makes adjustments or simply starts hitting more shots. Then the younger Celtics players simply haven't been through enough of those situations to understand how to react and right the ship.
Stevens can tell them to have the same intensity and focus at the end of the game as they do the beginning, but if the players aren't following through there's not much he can do about it aside from rotating in veterans.
I would hope that when Rajon Rondo returns, he'll have a steadying effect on things. He's been on the court for some stinkers in his day (with 2 or more Hall of Famers on the court no less) but for the most part he's been around the block enough to keep things more steady.
Regardless, the team is getting a good lesson in how important it is to maintain intensity and focus all the way through a basketball game. You can't have Geno Time if you don't execute, even while up 20 points in the 3rd quarter. They'll learn sooner or later.