On Monday night, the Boston Celtics fell in overtime to the Cleveland Cavaliers 118-114 at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse. After building up a 15 point lead over the Cavaliers, the Celtics let go of the rope once more and Boston found themselves in a close game. Boston was playing without Jayson Tatum, Al Horford, and Robert Williams, but still managed to play well, and put themselves in a position to take a vital road win in Cleveland.
“Despite dropping the lead, we didn’t back down,” said Jaylen Brown in his postgame interview, “We came out and we fought...we executed, we played basketball rather than going in the opposite direction. You could have seen a team come out and put every excuse in the world.” It wouldn’t have been a stretch to pencil in Monday as a loss right off the bat due to injuries, but Boston still found themselves with a chance to get the win, and nevertheless bungled it.
“In the midst of the storm, I think that was a valiant effort,” said Brown, “But there’s no moral victories in this ****, alright? We got to win games, period. I got to be better. There were spots in overtime and through the game where I felt like I rushed some shots that I wish I could have back. But overall, we have to have a fighter’s mentality, and play to win.” With every blown lead the Celtics bring back ghosts of the past, and their struggles are a a painful reminder of last season’s early struggles.
"I'm gonna make both"— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) March 7, 2023
Grant Williams before missing game-winning FTs pic.twitter.com/1naXwJOBL9
The salt in the wound from Monday’s loss came when Grant Williams had a chance to seal the win at the line with .8 seconds left on the game clock. Williams spent time talking trash to Donovan Mitchell, and preceded to clunk both free throws and send the game to overtime. The game wasn’t lost by Williams, but his mental lapse was a symptom of a larger issue for Boston as they limp through the beginning of March.
The Celtics are losers of three straight games, and they did so by blowing leads, an old habit that dates back to when Brad Stevens was the head coach. It happened with Ime Udoka as well, and after a strong start to this season, Boston is hitting a major skid. Losses sting no matter what, but when you find yourselves in control of games and fail to seal the deal, it becomes harder to ignore the trend forming.
Boston leads the league in overtime games played this season with ELEVEN, and have a record of 4-7 in those games. Only the Knicks come close with 10 OT games, in which they have a record of 4-6. The Celtics have an 0-5 record in overtime games against Cleveland and New York, two opponents that they could very well see in the playoffs.
Jaylen Brown just played more than 92 minutes in a 26-hour span.— Taylor Snow (@taylorcsnow) March 7, 2023
He's been on the court 135+ minutes in the past 4 days.
45:06 vs. CLE (3/6)
47:23 vs. NYK (3/5)
43:00 vs. BKN (3/3)
The minutes workload is something that needs to be considered as well, between so many overtime games and inability to preserve leads. Both Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum have career high in minutes per game, and with Robert Williams banged up again, you have to wonder where you can rest players down the stretch. Boston has done well in managing Al Horford and Malcolm Brogdon’s workloads, but as for the Jays, there’s been a lack in rest games. A losing streak at this time is brutal, as they’re not out of the race for the first seed still, but would be in the driver’s seat if they just took care of business.
There’s still time to fix some of these things, and ultimately, it comes down to execution. This isn’t something that can be ignored or pushed aside, because it’s cost the Celtics in the past, and even as recently as their Finals run. The Celtics will have a chance to bounce back on Wednesday night against the Portland Trail Blazers at TD Garden, 7:30PM EST tipoff.