With 10:28 left in the game, the Celtics were up one when Marcus Smart strained his calf and had to leave the game. There were many sighs of relief when it was reported it was only a Grade I calf strain and not something worse. However on the floor, Boston’s rhythm seemed to unravel after Smart left the game.
The team combined for seven fourth quarter turnovers that were just uncharacteristic by Celtics standards. The stretch after the injury is where the team went completely cold and started playing sloppy basketball with bad passes and careless footwork around the sidelines. “Yeah, we were all concerned,” Jaylen Brown said after the game about the team’s mindset after Smart’s injury. “Marcus is a leader of our team.”
Of course, it was only for a small stretch until the Celtics stormed back to make it a game again in the final minutes, but those small mistakes here and there in the final quarter always come back to haunt a team. It surely did here in a close one-point loss.
It was efforts like these that were backbreaking for the Celtics in that final quarter. This, of course, is one select play pulled from an entire game, but it does highlight how the Celtics struggled in the middle of this quarter. Tristan Thompson here gives a great effort to get an offensive rebound but then throws it all away to no one around the perimeter. These plays piled up and unfortunately came at the worst time.
Jayson Tatum will be playing this one over and over in his head because of the four-point swing this had in a tight game. He was expecting Daniel Theis to cut down to the near side block for what would seem to be an easy two, but Theis was on his way to set a low screen on the weak side. It hurts that Montrezl Harrell then led the break for a fast break bucket.
People can say that this game is just a one off performance, and the Celtics will not play like that again, but the most concerning aspect about these turnovers is that they have happened before a few times this season. The team has fallen into that rut of lazy and content basketball often. It is disappointing that it continues to come up for this team, but it is exactly what will need to change if they expect to get to the next level.
Boston has got to focus on keeping the intensity and focus up all game to where silly turnovers down the stretch do not cost the team games. They are highlighted more in a primetime game like this, but it has been happening multiple times throughout this season.
This game was there to win for the Celtics, and they played like the better team for a good portion of this game. However, the turnovers seemed to be an anomaly after the injury to Smart. Smart is the glue to this team that no one else can replace on that roster. He brings his contributions outside of the box score which is why his injury proved so critical.