At one point in Sunday’s game, the Boston Celtics owned a 24-point lead over the New Orleans Pelicans.
But things crumbled (and quick) in the second half.
The Pelicans made quick work of the Celtics’ lead despite a super slow start to the third quarter. New Orleans took the lead for the first time since the first quarter with just 3:39 left in regulation on a Nicolo Melli triple.
It initially seemed as if Boston could pull things out early in overtime, but the Pelicans gained enough momentum to seal the deal. Brandon Ingram did the most damage, including hitting the game-winning 3-pointer with 34.4 seconds left in OT.
The Celtics ultimately lost 120-115. Head coach Brad Stevens broke down the team’s epic meltdown during his postgame video press conference.
“I think it started at the end of the third,” Stevens told reporters during his postgame video press conference, as seen on NBC Sports Boston’s postgame coverage.
“I thought they (the Pelicans) were super aggressive in the pick-and-roll coverages, as you knew they would be, really blitzed, which they’ve done a lot in games. They put us on our heels in that. We eventually handled that better. We just were never able to hit, like, the big shot or two to keep the lead where it was as they were coming back. And on the other end of the floor, they spread us out and drove us right to the rim. And there are times where we could have done a lot better.
“We had a couple of major errors in transition, obviously, at that time. But there were times where we could have handled the drive better. But there were also times where they just, you know Zion Williamson and Ingram just put their shoulders down and got where they wanted to go.”
Sunday was the second time in the last two games the Celtics have blown a massive lead. Only this time, Boston paid the price.
“Listen, it’s enough of a trend. It’s enough of a concern. We’ve got to stop it,” Stevens said. “Last year at this time, we were in really good shape in those moments. It has not been good. This was a lot like the game I watched them play the other night when they had a big lead, but there’s a lot of game left. And you’ve got to do tough things on the defensive end, got to do tough things and make tough shots on the offensive end. And they just had a few more than us.
“… We’ve got a lot of things to clean up, but obviously, finishing the game is No. 1.”
Robert Williams agreed.
“I feel like we’ve got to be able to finish games,” Williams said. “… Obviously, it’s frustrating (losing) in OT, but just got to try and take what we can learn from it.”
Jaylen Brown offered a blunt assessment of the Celtics’ late-game woes.
“We’ve got to mature and grow up,” he said.
Here are some more notes from Sunday’s Celtics-Pelicans game:
— Some were surprised to see Kemba Walker get the minutes he did in overtime.
Stevens had no problem sending the point guard out for OT even though the team still is closely monitoring his minutes. But had Boston pushed more extra time, things probably would have been different.
“He was at 33, 34 the other night against (the Atlanta Hawks) at the end of the game. He was at 30-ish right at the end of regulation,” Stevens said. “I asked Kemba and our medical staff if it was OK to play or not. … They said he was fine to play the overtime. Had we gone two overtimes, he would not have played.”
— Williams not only dazzled to start the game, he also helped keep the Celtics within striking distance through their eventual collapse.
Tatum had plenty of praise for his teammate, too.
“Rob is continuing to improve night in and night out,” Tatum said. “… He has an amazing feel for the game. Rob’s really, really good. and he’s going to help us out the more opportunities that he gets.”
— The C’s will try to turn things around (again) when they take on the Mavericks in Dallas on Tuesday. Tip-off is slated for 7:30 p.m. ET.