A Disturbing Trend for the Boston Celtics


The NBA regular season is a grind.  While fans try to draw conclusions after each individual win or loss, it's really hard to get a good read on a team until at least the halfway point.  All of that is to say, it's difficult to make a true determination about this current Boston Celtics team after just 20 games. 

Photo courtesy of CGTN.com

It's even harder to do when you factor in that they have played just two games with a fully healthy lineup; as Jayson Tatum, Kemba Walker and now Marcus Smart have all missed time.  However, as Boston sits at 11-9, there is one thing that has stood out, and is becoming a bit of a concern.  For whatever reason, this team has an absolutely brutal time closing out games. 

Even without a deep dive into it, the fact that the Celtics sit tied with two other teams at 25th in the league in fourth quarter scoring is enough to alert you that something is wrong.  There are just three teams in the NBA who are worse than Boston when it comes to scoring in the fourth quarter.

Again, it's only 20 games, so not a huge sample size, but by no means a small one.  The issue is that this is a problem that dates back to the end of last year's playoffs.  Repeated collapses and droughts in the fourth quarter, and an inability to close out games is ultimately what doomed them in the Eastern Conference Finals against Miami.  That problem has already reared its ugly head on several occasions this year as well.

These struggles aren't isolated to losses either.  What makes this trend more concerning is that even in victories, the Celtics have issues in the fourth quarter.  Let's take a walk down memory lane and revisit some of these struggles that began all the way back in last year's Eastern Conference Semifinals against Toronto.

Though they came away victorious, Boston didn't exactly light it up in the fourth quarter of Game 7 of that series.  After a Tatum bucket gave them a 9-point lead with 5:21 remaining, Boston didn't make a field goal for the rest of the game.  They scored just five points, all on free throws, over the final five plus minutes.  They went 0 for 4 from the floor, and turned it over three times.  They did manage to hang on to the lead, though.

They weren't so lucky against the Heat.  In Game 1 of the conference finals, they lost a 14-point fourth quarter lead before ultimately losing in overtime.  In a Game 3 victory, they saw Miami trim a 20 point, fourth quarter deficit to just five.  In Game 6, with their season on the line, Boston held a six-point lead with 9:15 remaining, only to be outscored 26-6 over the next six and a half minutes, ultimately sealing their fate.

Those struggles have carried over into this season.  On opening night, Boston lost a 17-point fourth quarter lead, before pulling out a victory over Milwaukee.  In a loss at Detroit, Boston led by five with 4:15 left, only to go scoreless the rest of the way and lose.

In a victory at Miami, Boston led by 10 with 1:17 to go, then allowed Miami to go on a 10-0 run over the next 1:04, before escaping with a win. 

In back to back losses to the 76ers, Boston's inability to finish games continued.  On the first night, they were outscored by Philadelphia 31-17 in the fourth quarter and went scoreless over the final 1:40 while trailing by only two points.  Two nights later, trailing by three with 4:44 left, they allowed a 10-0 run over the next 1:29 which put the game out of reach.

In a recent loss to San Antonio, an 11-0 fourth quarter burst by the Spurs turned a four point Celtics lead into a seven point deficit in less than four minutes.

In last Saturday's loss to the Lakers, Boston was outscored 25-17 in the fourth quarter.  Six of those 17 points came in the final 1:30 of the game, so in the first 10:30, they mustered just 11 points. 

Most recently, in a win at Golden State, Boston led by ten with four minutes to go, but missed their final four shots from the floor, and scored just five points the rest of the way, all coming from the free throw line.  The Warriors pulled to within three points, before Boston closed it out.

This has become a very troubling, and puzzling trend.  It's not a talent issue.  Boston has one of the best duos in the league today.  Tatum and Jaylen Brown are stars, on the verge of becoming superstars. Maybe overcoming these fourth quarter woes are the next step in their development. 

As these two continue their improvement and ascension in this league, the ability to take over games and close them out is crucial.  If the Celtics want to get to where they think Tatum and Brown can take them, developing that killer instinct is imperative.  If the team continues to sputter through fourth quarters, their season will likely end sooner than anticipated.

Follow Derek on Twitter @mcvay34.

Check out Above The Parquet, the Syndicate’s podcast dedicated solely to the Boston Celtics and the rest of the NBA.  Follow on Twitter @AboveTheParquet.

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Boston Sports Syndicate: A Disturbing Trend for the Boston Celtics
A Disturbing Trend for the Boston Celtics
Boston Sports Syndicate
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