Ridiculous. That was the word of the night for Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens, the one he kept coming back to during his postgame press conference at TD Garden on Tuesday night. Boston had lost an overtime game—this time to the Nets—for the third time in four tries this season and the normally mild-mannered Stevens was about as ticked off as he ever gets in his meetings with the media.
And why not? His team had just let up 51 points, a Brooklyn franchise record, in the fourth quarter to the Nets, allowing an 18-point lead to slip away in the period. The Nets shot 15-for-23 in the fourth, with seven offensive rebounds. That means Brooklyn took only one shot in the fourth that was successfully rebounded by the Celtics.
“That was ridiculous,” Stevens said. “Now, Brooklyn deserves credit and I hate to say it that way because they really deserve credit.”
With three turnovers, the Celtics got only four empty possessions from the Nets in the final quarter. Caris LeVert scored 51 on the game and had 26 of those in the fourth period. Marcus Smart committed an unwise foul on LeVert on a 3-point attempt with Boston up three points and 0.2 seconds remaining. LeVert hit all three shots.
“We got four stops in the fourth quarter,” Stevens said. “They scored 51 points. The game is 48 minutes. We made a lot of plays late that were just not winning plays. Pretty simple, basic parts of our defensive system. But they deserve to win.”
Celtics Loss Could be Painful
Long-term, this could be a costly loss for the Celtics. While Boston’s focus has been sliding back ahead of the Raptors for the No. 2 seed in the East, they’re now 41-19, just 2.5 games ahead of the Heat for the No. 4 seed. Staying at either No. 2 or 3 is valuable for any of the Eastern Conference contenders because it means you won’t have to play the Bucks in the second round, a chore that will go to the winner of the conference’s 4 vs. 5 series.
It didn’t help that Jaylen Brown went out for the fourth quarter with what Stevens called a hamstring problem, nor did it help that Jayson Tatum was out with an illness. Stevens was not sure whether Tatum would play tomorrow when the Celtics face the Cavaliers, and there was no sense whether Brown’s injury could be a long-term issue. Kemba Walker, who is coming off a knee injury, will not be going to Cleveland.
Celtics’ Overtime Woes
This also was the second straight overtime loss for Boston, which has dropped three out of four of the game sit has played in OT. The numbers from those games have not been pretty. The Celtics scored only two points in overtime on Tuesday but they’ve managed 8.4 points in five OT periods this season (one game went into double overtime).
The Celtics have now shot 14-for-42 (33.3 percent) from the field and 3-for-17 (17.6 percent) from the 3-point line in all overtimes combined.
Stevens was particularly disappointed in his team’s lack of focus late in the game. That was out of character for this team.
“Teams that can stay in the moment and play the next possession the right way,” Stevens said, “and not be influenced by the score, not be influenced by the circumstances of the game, have a different level of toughness, a special toughness. We’ve exhibited that most of the year. I think that this is an anomaly. Nonetheless, it was a very humbling one. Because, again, that was ridiculous.”