The Boston Celtics lost a close game at the end of the fourth quarter on Wednesday night.
That sentence could be copied and pasted to describe a multitude of games the C’s have played this year. However, the loss to the San Antonio Spurs stung a bit more than usual because of the way it ended.
With mere seconds left in the game, the Celtics were down by two. Jaylen Brown stole an errant inbound pass, dribbled up the court, and got a quality look at the rim. The layup did not fall. It was misfortune after misfortune for Boston down the stretch of the game, and Brown’s missed layup was the icing on the cake.
Brown spoke with the media after the game. He was clearly frustrated by the final play of the game.
“Tonight was a tough loss. I smoked the f***ing layup. But, I’ve gotta bounce back tomorrow.”
The game was very closely contested throughout, but Boston’s offense went cold in the fourth. While they only allowed the Spurs to score 19, they were only able to muster up 20 themselves.
When asked about how the team should approach their fourth-quarter offense, Brown mentioned the desire to run more through Boston’s bigs, Robert Williams and Al Horford.
“I like playing through the bigs. I like playing through Al and Rob. I think those guys are great playmakers and, depending on how teams guard us, that’s the way to get some better looks and some easier baskets. Rather than everything having to be isolation or everything having to be a tough drive-and-kick.”
Against San Antonio, Horford finished with five assists while Williams tallied only two. However, just a couple of games ago, Williams showed off his premiere playmaking skills with a 10-assist triple-double against the Phoenix Suns.
Head coach Ime Udoka also took the time to comment on the team’s issues in the second half. He said that he wasn’t pleased with the way they executed.
“I don’t feel like we took advantage of opportunities we had in the third and fourth. We defended much better in the second half… Then offensively we got a little stagnant. Every time we had a chance to really push the lead up or get it close, especially down late in the fourth quarter, we took some poor shots. So, we have to be more deliberate with what we’re trying to get there.”
In the first half, the C’s shot 48.9 percent from the field and 35.3 percent from deep. However, those numbers plummeted in the second half - 39.5 percent from the field and 27.3 percent from three. Boston’s offense simply fell off a cliff.
Jayson Tatum also talked about this issue during his media availability. According to him, they need to be more proactive during the game, fixing issues in the moment rather than later on during film sessions.
“Play with a little more pace, get out in transition more after we get stops. And I think just be aware. Aware of moments where it’s getting stagnant and just be able to kind of regroup and point those things out and be better. And not have to wait until after the game or the next day when we watch film.”
The C’s rank 22nd in the league in fourth-quarter points per game (25.3), 25th in fourth-quarter field goal percentage (41.9 percent), and 27th in fourth-quarter three-point percentage (30.0 percent). This has been a long-standing issue, and it caught up with them once against vs. the Spurs.
Boston has a quick turnaround, as they play the New York Knicks tonight. While it’s important not to dwell on losses, they need to keep these struggles in the back of their minds tonight, and in every game moving forward.