It seemingly has become a nightly occurrence for the Boston Celtics to fall behind by a fairly big margin.
Friday’s loss to the Indiana Pacers was yet another example, with the Celts burying themselves in a 26-point hole. And though they’ve come out of those big deficits plenty of times to earn wins — their big win over the Houston Rockets on Dec. 28 was the result of clawing out of a 26-point deficit — Friday’s effort did not yield a positive result in the 97-91 loss.
This scenario certainly is double-edged. It’s good to know that no margin really is too big for the Celtics to climb out of and that they also can flip a switch at the half to make the game competitive.
The problem is, that’s happening far too often and it speaks to a bigger issue.
The too-regular requirement for Boston to fight its way out of a double-digit deficit indicates (obviously) that there is a breakdown somewhere along the way. In Friday’s case, it was atrocious shooting mixed with carelessness with the ball that set the Celtics back. It can be any number of things on a given night, but the fact that it’s happening with such regularity is not something that should be ignored, even when they do win.
Following the game, head coach Brad Stevens had some harsh words about his team’s drive on offense.
“I think that our biggest issue as a team is we aren’t crisp. We don’t crisply do things on offense,” Stevens said following the game as seen on NBC Sports Boston. “We are probably more of a shortcut-taking team than we need to be to be the best version of ourselves, and I thought that hurt us in the first half more than it did in the second. But certainly, then you’re digging such a hole that it could be a number of things why you can’t get back over the hump.
“(In the first half) for whatever reason, we were behind on everything, and I think it starts with our desire to really, really execute.”
Looking at that first half, in particular, those shortcuts could best be articulated by the fact that Indiana outscored Boston on the fast break 14-2, one sign of the sluggishness in the Celtics’ play.
From an entertainment perspective, the C’s really do become fascinating to watch as they begin to chip away at a big deficit. But as the season draws on and the room for error becomes razor-thin, that carelessness — particularly early in the game — is going to hurt even more.
Here are some more notes from Celtics-Pacers:
— With the Celtics’ loss, the Toronto Raptors (.704 winning percentage to .702) now hold possession of first place in the Eastern Conference. The Celtics had held the top spot since Oct. 31.
— The Celtics outscored their opponent by at least 10 points in the third quarter for the fourth straight game.
— Friday’s loss snapped a five-game winning streak against the Pacers.
— Marcus Morris had six points in the loss, snapping his streak of 11 consecutive games scoring in double figures.