In an 83-78 loss to Orlando on Friday night at home, Boston struggled again from the perimeter, killing the team's chances for a comeback and continuing a troubling early-season trend.
The Celtics were 2-of-19 from 3-point range, making just 1-of-13 in the second half. They went over 20 minutes without making one in a game that saw them trail for more than 46 minutes.
"Just not hitting our shots," said Rasheed Wallace, who missed all eight of his attempts from beyond the arc. "We got the shots we want, some of the open looks that we want … but we're just not hitting the shots."
Coach Doc Rivers has insisted all season that he is OK with 3-pointers being taken at any time, so long as it is an open look. But his team's success is beginning to rest on whether those looks pay off or not.
In its nine wins this season, Boston has made 42.0 percent (73-of-174) of its 3-point attempts. In four losses, that number plummets to a ghastly 15.6 percent (10-of-64).
During their current 3-4 stretch, the C's are 26-of-114 (22.8 percent).
For Rivers, there are too many other things going wrong to worry about whether the shots will fall or not.
"I think we would take the wide-open shots [we] had," he said. "I mean, Eddie House missed wide-open ones, Rasheed did, even [Ray Allen] missed a couple.
"We'll take those. I don't mind those at all. I just don't like how we're playing offense or defense right now."
Although Rivers has other things on his mind, Boston's best stretch of Friday's loss came when it finally eschewed the perimeter game. The Celts turned a five-point deficit into a tie game — the first time Orlando did not lead in 42 minutes — during a four-minute span in which they didn't take a single 3-pointer, scoring four times within eight feet of the basket.
The Magic entered Friday ranked second in the league in 3-point attempts per game. They finished 10-of-22. Boston's opponent on Sunday, New York, ranks first. Avoiding another setback may rest on the C's ability to not get dragged into a long-range shooting exhibition.
Rivers, for one, knows something has to change.
"We're not executing. We're not trusting each other," Rivers said. "We're going to win games still, but we're not going to win against good teams. It's just not going to happen."