The Boston Celtics collided with their worst nightmare Tuesday night while in pursuit of extending their 11-game winning streak against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Despite building a favorable 22-point lead over Cleveland with nine minutes left to play in the fourth quarter, somehow, Boston collapsed miserably — reminiscent of a handful of stretches in the playoffs last year.

Previously, the Celtics had gone 364-0 when leading by 20 or more points in the fourth quarter, dating back to the 1997-98 season. The Cavaliers were without star Donovan Mitchell and Boston’s defense had held them to under 30 points for three consecutive quarters.

In most instances, as their NBA-best (48-13) campaign has proven, the Celtics would (and should) trot easily to the winner’s column in that scenario. Instead, Boston shot itself out of a 12th straight win and woke up the next morning to an outpour of hyperbolic overreactions while still sitting pretty atop the standings with a 7.5-game lead in the Eastern Conference over the No. 2 seed Milwaukee Bucks.

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“They are becoming the Buffalo Bills,” FS1’s Colin Cowherd claimed Wednesday on “The Herd.” “… The Eastern Conference is surprisingly weak. The Dame (Lillard)-Giannis (Antetokounmpo) thing, they’ve taken a step back defensively. (Joel) Embiid got hurt, forget them. The Knicks? Completely limited offensively. (Jalen) Brunson’s banged up, (Julius) Randle has been. The Cavs are hot, cold and young. And Orlando? Give me a break.”

Boston has no control over how strong or weak its conference is. Most teams in the East have underperformed, but the Celtics haven’t. When taking on opponents in the Western Conference, Boston’s gone 15-6, most recently obliterating the Golden State Warriors in a historic 140-88 beatdown Sunday. Now, that’s no indicator of how the Celtics will perform if they go as far as the NBA Finals, but neither is a 105-104 loss to Cleveland in March.

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While living up to expectations has been the biggest battle for a Celtics team that received a heavy load of offseason investment from the front office and ownership, the constantly shifting narratives might be a close second. If Boston crushes the washed-up Warriors by 50-plus points, it’s time to book them for a return to the Finals, but if Dean Wade has the game of a lifetime, it becomes time to make Jayson Tatum walk the plank and garner blame.

Granted, Tatum did miss the potential go-ahead fadeaway — albeit over two Cleveland defenders — but that’s just a snippet of the overall collapse.

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“That’s the biggest issue I have with the Celtics right now is how are they gonna close games in the crunch time and in the playoffs,” ex-NBA guard Austin Rivers said on ESPN’s “First Take.” “Is it just gonna come down to a Tatum-Brown show? Because Tatum is now (shooting) 33% in the clutch. Actually, when we talk about premier players in the league, he’s one of the worst in the crunch.”

It makes no sense to lean on a singular win or loss to create a bigger-picture narrative when 81 other games are played throughout a campaign. Boston went 8-for-25 from the field and missed all eight of its 3-point attempts in the fourth quarter. Celtics head coach Joe Mazzulla should’ve reconvened and emphasized the importance of seeking scoring production in different areas around the floor, just like in last Tuesday’s 117-99 win over the Philadelphia 76ers. The Celtics didn’t have the hot hand from outside, got to the line to shoot 34 free throws and shot 10-of-16 from inside the perimeter.

Having a blueprint to refer back to, the Celtics abandoned a proven effective game plan and it backfired. That’s bound to happen over the course of an 82-game season, especially when factoring in the roster and coaching staff set a top-notch bar well ahead of the All-Star break.

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Contextually, coughing up a major lead over an undermanned Cavs team isn’t ideal, but it was Boston’s first loss since Feb. 1.

“Good loss for us,” Kristaps Porzingis told reporters, as seen on NBC Sports Boston’s postgame coverage. “Because I think it’s healthy, I think it’s healthy for us. We do have a feeling of like, ‘We’re gonna win every game, we’re invincible, we’re gonna win this game.’ No matter what happens we’re like, ‘We got this.’ … It’s also healthy to get a loss here and there to kind of like, ‘Let’s recalibrate a little bit’ and have that attention to detail again.”

The Celtics haven’t undergone a noteworthy losing streak, having been defeated twice in a row just once all season and that was back in October. Boston’s maintained a consistent level of play that few teams have matched and its concerning losses list is even smaller.

With 21 games left scheduled for the regular season, the Celtics have plenty of time to brush off the one-point loss, readjust and run away with the No. 1 seed to seize home-court advantage before the playoffs begin.

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Featured image via Ken Blaze/USA TODAY Sports Images