And Celtics coach Brad Stevens had no problem pointing it out, over and over again in his postgame press conference.
The usually mild-mannered coach’s frustration was bursting at the seams following Boston’s implosion Tuesday night, as the Celtics blew a 21-point, second-half lead and the Nets ultimately prevailed with a 129-120 win on the TD Garden Parquet.
“The other team gets to feeling really good and you feel like the weight of the world is on your shoulders to finish a game,” Stevens said. “And usually (close the game out) with your effort. You get a tough stop, a tough rebound, a loose ball. We didn’t get any of that stuff.”
Then, Stevens delivered the gut-punch that was nothing but the truth.
“So, we deserved to lose.”
That was actually how Stevens concluded his press conference. He spent the first six minutes of his session with the media throwing heavy jabs at his team over their lackluster effort to do things that the Celtics have made routine this season.
Boston’s defense was horrific — and that might be an understatement — as the Celtics allowed 62 points over the final 17 minutes of the game.
“We didn’t have any defensive intensity,” Stevens said. “I should have subbed a couple of guys out that normally play and I just kept them in. We had great intensity for most of the game and we just left our foot off the gas. … We made a lot of plays late that we’re just not winning plays.”
Stevens continued his assault on his team’s bewildering end-of-game execution, which included Marcus Smart fouling Caris LeVert with 0.2 seconds left in regulation as LeVert was in the midst of trying to throw up a difficult heave to tie the game. Instead, LeVert was able to do that in much easier fashion from the free-throw line.
“We just really didn’t play well at the end,” Stevens said. “We couldn’t get the ball in twice. Terrible.”
The mind-boggling loss was certainly out of character for a Celtics team that for the most part this season has been defined by their grittiness, toughness and ability to fight through adversity. Those characteristics were seemingly nowhere to be found, though.
“I think that this is an anomaly,” Stevens said. “It was a very humbling one.”
The NBA schedule allows the Celtics to turn the page quickly with a road matchup against the Cleveland Cavaliers Wednesday night. The C’s will be without Kemba Walker, and could be missing Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Gordon Hayward and Marcus Smart, too.
That doesn’t bother Stevens. He just wants to see whoever is on the floor for the Celtics to exert a maximum effort as the C’s try to redeem themselves after a putrid late-game performance.
“I have no idea who’s going to Cleveland,” Stevens said. “I think most of the coaches are going. A couple players. I just want eight, nine guys, whoever’s going to play hard, let’s go. Like, that was ridiculous.”