Marcus Smart had a chance to send the Boston Celtics to overtime against the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday night, but failed to convert. Tonight, it was much of the same, as Kemba Walker had a chance to win it for the C’s, but couldn’t convert. Daniel Theis couldn’t sink the putback on the miss, and the Celtics failed to come away with another winnable game, losing 96-95. Theis and Rob Williams accidentally scored on their own hoop twice, giving the Lakers four free points, and Jaylen Brown missed a pair of key free throws late in the contest that really hurt the down the stretch.
Brown, along with Jayson Tatum, cannot be faulted however. The Celtics two stars combined for 58 of the Celtics 95 points, and once again it felt like the Celtics were lost when they weren’t on the court. Theis chipped in 14 points, but did pretty much all his damage in the first quarter, Williams put up 10 of his own, but the scoring pretty much stopped there. Walker and Marcus Smart performed miserably, as they both put up only four points each. Walker in particular just couldn’t seem to get anything going, and his struggles are beginning to become a bit of a concern.
The Celtics spent most of the first half trailing, at one point facing a ten-point deficit halfway through the second quarter. However, from that point on the Celtics clawed their way back, tying the game up before LeBron James converted an and-one right before the end of the half. Both teams stayed neck and neck throughout much of the third quarter before the Celtics went on a nice 14-4 run to close out the quarter, giving them a seven point lead heading into the fourth.
All of that hard work quickly went to waste, as the Lakers roared back and thoroughly outplayed the Celtics for much of the fourth. The Lakers held a seven point lead with just under two minutes left to go, and the result seemed set in stone. The Celtics then proceeded to bring it back to a one point game, but couldn’t convert on their last possession. It was a tough way to end a hard fought game, especially considering how the Spurs game ended.
While the Celtics were able to keep the game close throughout, there are some troubling concerns bubbling to the surface for the team. The Celtics over-reliance on Tatum and Brown is starting to become an issue. While they have certainly lived up to their expectations, the rest of the team hasn’t. The bench only managed to contribute 15 points, with most of them coming from Williams. As mentioned, Walker and Smart provided no scoring help whatsoever. Some of these other players are going to need to make their mark on the game if they want to come away victorious. If Kemba can just hit another shot, the Celtics win this game.
However, it’s necessary to take the time to appreciate how well Brown and Tatum are playing. Tatum single-handedly willed the team back into the game at the end of the fourth, and had he gotten the ball on the last possession, there’s a good chance the Celtics would have won. Tatum also delivered what has to be the assist of the season with a gorgeous no look pass as he was falling out of bounds.
Meanwhile, Brown continued his strong stretch of play, and it’s starting to look like he’s here to stay. Brown’s shooting ability has improved drastically, which makes his finishing ability that more dangerous. If Walker, or anyone for that matter, can find a way to start making an impact on these games, the Celtics will be able to pull off some of these wins.
The Celtics will now begin a daunting five game road trip on the west coast, with their first game against the Golden State Warriors. While the Warriors are not the superteam they once were, any team with Steph Curry on the other side is a threat to win. Curry has shown he can catch fire at any time, and, much like the Celtics, if his supporting cast can get their shots to fall, the Warriors are a dangerous team. The Celtics will look to get some help for their own two stars, as they look to get back in the win column.