BOSTON — Paul Pierce ain’t walking through that door.
Throughout this season — and, really, since Pierce left town two summers ago — the Celtics have been without a true closer.
The final possessions of their numerous close games have been a mishmash of blown plays, ugly shots and poor clock management. Boston’s best look yet — a Jeff Green floater Wednesday against the Detroit Pistons — was swatted into the stratosphere by Andre Drummond.
Head coach Brad Stevens admitted before the Pistons game, which the Celtics eventually won in overtime, that his team is employing a “by committee” system in lieu of having one go-to guy. Sometimes it’ll be the hot hand who takes the last shot, other times it’ll be whoever has the open look.
What Stevens really wants, though, is for some of the Celtics’ younger players — Jared Sullinger, Kelly Olynyk, Avery Bradley, perhaps — to fill this critical role, both on the offensive and defensive ends.
“One of the responsibilities that I feel like I have is, we’ve got to get some of these young guys to become those guys,” Stevens said. “We’ve got to get some of these young guys to — whether they’re ready for it our not — be the guy that is making a play, not only to make a big basket at the end of the game, but to stop a run. Having the toughness or desire to want to make that play. I’ve got to do a better job of helping those guys believe that they can do that.”
Toughness has been a point of emphasis for Stevens, who all but called the Celtics soft after they blew a 23-point lead Tuesday in a loss to the Atlanta Hawks. It was their fifth straight defeat and the fifth time this season they had lost a game after leading by at least 15 points.
To remedy this unfortunate trend, Stevens believes his players must not shy away from the spotlight.
“I think the biggest thing is that we have to do all the little, tough things better,” Stevens said. “And then that stuff happens. But then don’t be afraid to step up in that moment. Now, I’m not saying they’re afraid. I think sometimes we’re just all looking for the other guy or deferring somewhat.”
With a host of NBA bottom-feeders on their upcoming schedule, now would be a perfect time for the Celtics’ young guns to heed their coach’s advice.
Thumbnail photo via Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports Images