Boston Celtics Continue Their Late-Game Struggles

By Michael LeDuc
Avery Bradley
Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

The Boston Celtics were able to sneak past the Cleveland Cavaliers on Saturday 103 to 100. Avery BradleyJeff Green and Jordan Crawford led the offense to victory. However, the Celtics found themselves nearly giving up a lead yet again. Lately, Boston has not been able to hold on to big leads, and it has cost them a few games this season.

The Celtics have lost their last two home games after being up big. Against Cleveland, the Celtics were up by as many as 19 points. With about 4.5 minutes to go, the Celtics had a comfortable 10-point lead. Cleveland was able to cut it closer, and eventually found themselves down 102-100 with a chance to take a lead. Luckily, Brandon Bass stepped up and recorded a huge block on Dion Waiters. Bradley sealed the deal with a free-throw, and the Celtics barely held on. Despite the win, closing games has been a major problem for Boston.

In the last 10 games, the Celtics wasted their cushions and have blown marginal leads against the Brooklyn NetsLos Angeles ClippersDetroit PistonsWashington Wizards and nearly against Cleveland. Boston was up by more than 13 against the Nets, up 10 against the Clippers, squandered a 21-point lead against the Pistons and collapsed in the fourth-quarter against the Wizards to blow an 18-point lead. The Celtics seem to have trouble scoring in the second-half of these games. They start off hot, but cool off as the game goes on. While outscoring their opponents in the first-half, the second-half is a different story. The Celtics are being outscored 278 to 227 in these games, including the game against Cleveland.

It is impossible to pinpoint where exactly the problem is in these games. It is most likely a combination of different elements. It may be a matter of metal toughness, which would need to be addressed as soon as possible by coach Brad Stevens. But, one factor is that the Celtics lack a true point guard. Boston desperately needs someone that can control the pace of the game and create buckets when the offense is struggling in the second-half. Also, right now, there’s no one to feed the hot hand. If the Celtics have a few guys on fire, there is no point guard to consistently give them the ball. Obviously, this is due to the absence of Rajon Rondo.

Another reason for the Celtics’ second-half woes is the defensive performance. They always do well in the first-half, but collapses when the other team begins to make a substantial run. For whatever reason, the defense cannot withhold an offensive surge. Also, when the Celtics carry comfortable leads, the defense becomes lethargic. The intensity and energy diminishes.

Fortunately, the Celtics showed some life late in the game against the Cavaliers on Saturday. They let Cleveland waltz right back in the game, but were able to make plays when it counted most. The Celtics are in need of someone they can rely on in end-of-game situations. However, this is going to happen to young teams like the Celtics, and it is a good opportunity for the young players on that team to learn, grow and develop.

Michael LeDuc writes about the Boston Celtics for Rant Sports. Follow him on Twitter @mike_leduc, like his Facebook page and add him on Google.

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