A day after throwing the ball away 21 times in a loss to Indiana, the Celtics were on the same path against the Hawks on Saturday. They had committed 15 turnovers through three quarters and six in the third quarter alone, allowing the Hawks to pull away despite shooting just 36 percent from the field.
Then, a funny thing happened. The Celtics stopped turning it over. Jordan Crawford, who led all players with four turnovers entering the final frame, committed none the rest of the way. The Celtics gave away the ball just two times in the fourth quarter, preventing the Hawks from scoring easy baskets while the Celtics clamped down on defense.
“Well, we talked about the other team was wearing white and we were wearing green, so we focused on the green part,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens joked. “No, I don’t know. I don’t know why we go through those stretches. The third quarter bothers me, how we played, and that’s been a little bit of a conundrum for us. I’ve got to do more to learn that and figure that out, because if I knew, I’d try to stop it.”
The Celtics were outscored 21-15 in the third quarter after leading by six points in the first half. That didn’t sit well with the players, who have expressed growing frustration with their inability to avoid that one disastrous quarter in their losses. Crawford was the catalyst for rallying the Celtics after their third quarter on Saturday, which should no longer be surprising given the way he has played under Stevens.
“Jordan was really wanting the ball in those moments, and I thought it was the best move to get it to him,” Stevens said. “After he made the first move and maybe the second, the guys came back to the huddle and said, let’s keep it in his hands. That’s usually a pretty good sign moving forward. Maybe it’s somebody else some other night, but it was him [Saturday].”
After the way the previous six games went, it’s safe to say the Celtics were a bit tired of watching three solid quarters of work get ruined by 12 poor minutes.
“I think we learned in those games, even though we made the mistake more than once, [Saturday] we pushed through that,” Crawford said. “We learned that if we push through that and play together, we’ll be all right.”