The Celtics aren’t good enough to play anything less than a 48-minute game. But lately they’ve been giving up leads – big leads – and failing to close out games. And in their two most recent losses to the Cavaliers and Suns, the Celtics weren’t even able to get clean looks at the basket in their final possessions.
On Friday against LeBron James and Co., Boston was down a point with seven seconds left on the clock. Out of a timeout, Rajon Rondo proceeded to run out the clock as he didn’t get a shot off before the buzzer sounded.
On Monday, it was just about more of the same. Boston – down four points to Phoenix – had ball with 19.8 seconds remaining in the game. They had a timeout left, but Brad Stevens was hoping for a quick basket and a foul – then he’d use his timeout after the Suns free throws to advance the ball.
Boston didn’t get an actual shot off until 2.6 seconds left on the clock when Rondo was fouled taking a desperation 3-pointer. Give the Suns credit for solid perimeter defense down the stretch, but if you’re the Celtics you have to get a shot off much earlier in that situation.
Oh, Rondo missed all three free throws, too.
Late-game execution has been ugly for the Celtics this season, and those two games are two of the latest and greatest examples.
But despite the way the team has lost, Rondo and his teammates say confidence has not waned.
“We’re a prideful team,” Rondo said. “We believe in each other. We have a lot of games that we believe we could have won, but those games are in the past and we’re going to continue to move forward and get better.”
Everybody knew November was going to be a tough month. Boston’s 2-6 record proves that it has been – but the Celtics have been in most of the games, including losses to the Thunder, Raptors, and thanks to a big fourth-quarter comeback, the Mavericks, too.
While that may be the case, it doesn’t make the losses any easier. In a wide-open Eastern Conference, these losses could come back to bite them at the end of the season.
Perhaps it’s a good time to play the winless 76ers.
“Very frustrating,” Jared Sullinger said. “But at the same time like I always say, the beauty of the NBA is you always have another game. We got one on Wednesday. We play Philly. And we can’t let this one get away.”