The Boston Celtics did not have a holly jolly Christmas after blowing a 19-point lead to the Milwaukee Bucks. Injuries aside, this game will be added to a tally of contests the Celtics have let slip away this season. It’s been a rough year in that regard.
There have been numerous games where the Celtics have gone up big and then crumbled in the fourth. The Chicago game was one, the first Cleveland game was another, and the list goes on and on. Boston’s inability to close out wins has been a major factor in them hovering around the .500 mark all season.
Head coach Ime Udoka spoke about the nagging issue after the loss to the Bucks yesterday. He admitted that the team has a problem and that they need to all come together in order to figure it out.
“We have to figure this out as a team and a coaching staff, how to maintain these leads especially late in the game. It gets a little frustrating, obviously. And sometimes it’s as simple as making shots... The endings in a lot of these games we feel like we’re giving away.”
With 5:20 left in the game, the Celtics were up 109-96. From that point on, the Bucks went on a 19-4 run, closing out the game with a four-point win. Giannis Antetokounpmo came alive on both ends. He not only dictated the pace on offense, but was a force on the defensive end as well.
Despite the lack of scoring in the final five minutes, Udoka wasn’t too upset with Boston’s offensive attack. He acknowledged the need to play as a team and not settle for bad looks, but he thought “the shot quality was good at the end” of the game. Boston just couldn’t get any of them to fall.
“Settling at times instead of attacking the basket when we can... It’s multiple guys that’ll try to do it on their own.. Like I said, the wide open looks we got, couldn’t have asked for better shots than those late. But you got to knock those down.
As usual, though, Udoka had something to say about Boston’s defense. He’s been focused on the defensive end all season, and the Celtics were letting the Bucks run all over them towards the end. Sophomore guard Payton Pritchard even commented on the team’s lackluster defense against Antetokounmpo down the stretch.
Udoka: “If we defend like we’re capable of, it’s not really even a close game there because we were scoring enough in that quarter.”
Pritchard: “I think it’s similar to the Philly game. We just can’t give them easy buckets that we gave Giannis. Two rebounds and a putback.”
Now, does being down so many players including Al Horford and Grant Williams put the C’s at a disadvantage? Of course. Should they have won the game after the first half they had? Absolutely. Both can be true.
If the C’s want to make a push in the latter half of the season, this issue needs to be a top priority. They’ve shown that they can play like a top team, but now they need to do it in the fourth quarter.