With about 13 seconds left in the game, the Celtics had a 104-103 lead and the ball. All they had to do was get it in bounds, make their free throws and they probably come away with a win on Sunday. Sounds easy right? Well, when the pass went in to Kemba, he looked like a deer in the headlights dribbling away from the rest of the team, and when he made his turn, the Thunder’s Dennis Schroder was right there for the steal and took it in for the easy lay up. This 105-104 loss was probably one of the most painful losses in recent memory.
They had their chance to win on Sunday, but it really shouldn’t have been that close. With about a minute left in the first half, the Celtics had just completed a stretch where they hit 5 straight three pointers and increased their lead to 18. For an offense that had been struggling, this was a pleasant site to see. But, in a minute of game time the Thunder went on a 7-0 run to bring the deficit down to 11 heading into halftime. The Celtics have had double digit leads in the last four home games….and are 0-4 in those games. It just looks like they take their foot off the gas when they get up big. For a team that prides itself on defense, it was an ugly effort against the Thunder. The Celts could not stop fouling, which allowed the Thunder to get to the line 35 times and in turn, really kept them in the game. Not to mention, the Thunder shooting 44 percent from the field and 40 percent from three isn’t so good for the brand either.
Defense wasn’t the only problem, though. The offensive struggles continued for the Celtics, especially for two of their starters. Kemba, who has looked incredibly rusty since returning from his injury went 4-14 for 14 points and Tatum, who has cooled off since his 5 straight games of 32+ points went 8-22 for 19 points. Kemba and Tatum gong a combined 12-36 for 33 points is not a recipe for success. Shooting 37 three pointers as a team is pretty wild, too, even in today’s NBA. I LOVE the three pointer but these guys were just chucking them up at times leading to a lot of bad offensive possessions.
This game was frustrating, disgusting and just all around disappointing. But, as always, there’s still some good to take out of it! Hayward looked like he is starting to find his stroke again going 9-19 (4-7) for 24 points. He also added 5 boards and 4 assists, a nice all-around game from him. Of course, the last time I praised him in one of these, he went on a BRUTAL stretch, so fingers crossed I don’t jinx him again. Two of the young guys had some nice minutes as well. Robert Williams looks like he’s going to be the No. 2 center behind Theis. Williams had 6 points 5 boards, including four offensive rebounds and a key block late in the game. No matter how bad the defense was on Sunday, Williams was always active. I need more Romeo Langford minutes, all this kid does is produce. He had 6 points on 2-3 shooting and 5 boards, including two offensive rebounds. Plus, his on ball defense is awesome, so is he defensive energy as a whole. Especially with Jaylen out, this could be a nice test to see what the lottery pick has to offer. Hopefully Brad lets the kid play more and more.
I need to give my quick respects to the Thunder. Chris Paul was awesome on Sunday going for 28 points on 9-19 shooting, including 10-10 from the line and adding 7 assists and 6 boards. Dennis Schroder was equally as awesome going 10-21 for 27 points off the bench. The Celtics didn’t have an answer for either of these two all game. And credit to the Thunder defense for putting the clamps on the Celtics in the second half. They forced 13 turnovers and never letting Boston get comfortable. This Thunder team could really be a problm for whoever they face in the playoffs.
For one of the more important stretches of the season, this isn’t what we wanted to see. A Friday night 99-94 loss to Utah and this heartbreaker on Sunday. Unfortunately, it doesn’t get any easier with Indiana and Milwaukee on the schedule this week. Right now the Celtics are 1-3 to start March, with blown double digit leads in all four games….not great! For the sake of my well being, they need to get back to the type of basketball they were playing in February and find a way to beat the Pacers and Bucks, or else I’ll start pulling hair out of my head.