The Boston Celtics nearly pulled off a massive comeback in the fourth quarter against the New Orleans Pelicans, but ultimately fell short, with the final score being 115-109. The Celtics trailed by double digits before reeling off a huge 13-0 run late in the fourth quarter to make things interesting, but couldn’t finish the act. Jayson Tatum led the way again with 34 points, while Kemba Walker also poured in 23 points of his own. It was a disappointing loss, especially after the C’s showed so much progress over their past couple of games.
The Celtics actually came out and played pretty well at the start of this one, primarily due to Jayson Tatum dropping 16 points in the first quarter alone. Despite that, the Celtics still trailed heading into the second quarter, as they struggled on the defensive side, which would continue on through the entire game. The Pelicans managed to keep the C’s at arms length throughout the second quarter, as Boston just couldn’t get the game back to a tie score.
The Celtics actually won the third quarter, but it’s when their play dipped notably. The Pelicans cooled off, but the Celtics couldn’t really capitalize, as their offense just became stagnant. The offense looked good enough in the first half where if they were able to hang around in the game, they could take over down the stretch and pull out a victory. Despite the poor play, the Celtics set themselves up to do as much in the fourth quarter, only to fall flat on their faces.
The Celtics started off the quarter flat, and fell behind by as much as 17 points in the quarter. With the score at 110-94, the Celtics proceeded to go on a 13-0 run with under four minutes left in the game to make it a three point game with a minute left. Brandon Ingram hit a clutch midrange jumper over Tatum to put the lead up to five, and the Celtics couldn’t score on the ensuing possession, which essentially sealed the deal. Marcus Smart ended up getting ejected in the process, as he was livid over a missed called on the possession that sealed the Celtics fate.
There are a couple of obvious issues that jump right out at you in this one. The biggest issue was Evan Fournier. The recent trade deadline acquisition had a horrible Celtics debut, as he missed all 10 of his shots from the field, and failed to record a single point. The Celtics added Fournier for some solid bench scoring, but he was somehow even worse than Jeff Teague, the guy who he was brought into replace. Hopefully this is just a one off performance from Fournier, because they cannot justify using their trade exemption on a guy who is failing to score at all.
The second issue was the defense. Time and again the Celtics just let opposing teams get way too many open looks, and it absolutely kills them. Often time they overcommit on help defense, and just leave wide open threes of dunks for the other team. Granted one of their better defenders in Jaylen Brown was out tonight, but the Pelicans aren’t necessarily oozing offensive talent aside from Ingram and Zion Williamson. Bench guys like Josh Hart have come on and killed the Celtics second unit, as he had 15 points off the bench, all in the first half. Simply put, the C’s defense needs to improve if they want to continue to get some wins.
Also concerning was how the Celtics attacked the start of the fourth quarter. If they looked even somewhat interested in winning for the first six minutes of the quarter, their late rally probably would have been enough to get them a win. Instead, they basically just resorted to letting Tatum play hero ball, which provided minimal results. Tatum did pretty much all of his work at the end of the quarter, and the Celtics just spent way too much of the fourth quarter settling for tough shots. When the offense gets stagnant like that, they often struggle as a result. It was nice to see the offense pick it up at the end of the quarter, but it proved to be too little too late.
The Celtics obviously were shorthanded without Jaylen Brown tonight, and they will hopefully be back at full strength come Wednesday’s tilt against the Dallas Mavericks. The Mavericks recently saw the return of their star guard Luka Doncic, which will make the Celtics task that much tougher. The Celtics will have to bring their A game against the Mavs if they want to get back in the win column.
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