The Boston Celtics failed to do right by their cause at every given opportunity during their gut-wrenching loss against the New York Knicks on Thursday night.
While Boston appeared on track for a momentum shifter after creating a 15-point cushion in the first quarter, the Celtics fell apart at the most inconvenient of moments. In the third quarter, the Celtics shot just 31.8% from the field. Meanwhile, the Knicks countered whenever Boston left open a window of opportunity. New York knocked down 52.4% of its shots in the third frame and out-rebounded Boston, 15-10.
Jalen Brunson and Julius Randle, who combined to score 66 of New York’s 120 points, came together to score 27 points in the third — more than Boston’s 25 collective points.
Those shortcomings from the Celtics, as interim head coach Joe Mazzulla highlighted, were pivotal. Not only did they delay Boston’s late offensive push, but it also gave the Knicks chances to pile on the pressure.
“I thought our offensive put us in tough spots in transition in that end of the third quarter and the fourth quarter where they had 22 points off turnovers,” Mazzulla said, as seen on NBC Sports Boston’s postgame coverage. “And so you can’t guard turnovers. And you can’t guard missed layups at the rim. And so we had multiple possessions at the end of the third, beginning of the fourth where we turned it over and (had) a missed layup. A wrong read at the rim is detrimental as a turnover.”
Mazzulla added: “So it’s deciphering what’s hurting us at the half-court and what’s hurting us as a team.”
While difficult to mention any bright spots following a difficult loss, Mazzulla did credit Boston for a “hard-fought” effort. The Celtics did quickly muster a 14-4 run with less than five minutes remaining in order to give themselves a chance at overtime to begin with.
But Mazzulla further emphasized a few key areas in which the team needs to improve on moving forward after three consecutive losses.
“It was a hard-fought game for the most of it,” Mazzulla said. “But great teams know why they’re good and why they’re good all the time. We just can’t take possessions or time in the game for granted and I didn’t think we played consistently the entire game — physical, connected, detailed basketball. When we turned it on, we really did. And so we just have to do that all the time.”
Jaylen Brown, who completely fell apart with the game on the line by missing two straight free throws, agreed with Mazzulla. Brown also took full accountability for his blunder at the line, which could’ve put the Celtics ahead with just 7.6 seconds left in overtime.
“That’s a part of the season that also reflects leadership,” Brown said, as seen on NBC Sports Boston’s postgame coverage. “As one of the leaders and the leader of this team, I gotta do better on making sure my energy is contagious to the rest of the group and tonight was an example of that.”