NEW YORK — Later the Boston Celtics blew their latest atomic number 82 of the season in a heartbreaking 108-105 defeat at the easily of the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden, coach Ime Udoka repeatedly called out his team for a lack of mental toughness.
“I think it’due south a lack of mental toughness to fight through those adverse times,” Udoka said after frontward RJ Barrett’due south banked-in iii-pointer at the buzzer completed a 25-point Knicks improvement to stun the Celtics. “To your point, it’s across the board. It’due south a turnover here, a bad shot here, a missed defensive assignment here, and several missed rebounds tonight.
“So it’s a lot of different things. Then, like I said, a calming presence to ho-hum it downwards and get us what we desire is really what you need at that point. And sometimes we all go defenseless upwards in it.”
Boston has blown iv leads of at least xix points this season — two more than any other team in the NBA — and has been ane of the league’southward worst 4th-quarter teams. The Celtics rank 26th in offensive efficiency and 25th in defensive efficiency in fourth quarters and are 29th in net rating, being outscored by 8.7 points per 100 possessions.
After Thursday’s loss to the Knicks, they find themselves sitting in a necktie with the Atlanta Hawks for 11th place in the Eastern Conference — outside of not just the playoffs but the play-in tournament spots as well.
Many of the losses that take put the Celtics in that predicament have come in a similar fashion to the way they lost Thursday — 4th-quarter collapses and late-game breakdowns. Udoka said for that to change, his team’s approach has to modify in those moments.
“It’s guys getting rattled when it’s not the stop of the world,” Udoka said. “You still have a 12-point, comfy atomic number 82, and y’all gotta end that run.
“We have to understand fourth dimension and score, and we need a solid shot and not just get caught up in the game. You have to play the game different in the kickoff quarter than the quaternary quarter. Different when the squad is going on the run and when y’all’re getting stops and getting out running.
“It’southward non open gym. You can’t just play the same way the whole game. So we have to accept better understanding of that and go the quality of shot that we want to stop a run and non just get defenseless upwards in it and 4, five guys make the wrong play and information technology starts to snowball.”
The latter scenario has happened as well often to Boston (18-21) this flavor, including in Thursday night’s loss. Subsequently controlling the game for the first one-half, the Celtics allowed the Knicks to storm dorsum with two lengthy runs in the third quarter before New York eventually came all the way back in the fourth.
“We just have to regroup,” said Celtics star Jayson Tatum, who had 36 points, including a jumper with 1.5 seconds left that, at least briefly, tied the game for Boston. “Evidently losses, this stretch kind of is tough, losing leads and just not finishing out in the quaternary quarter.
“I remember we just have to wait at the big movie and the one thousand scheme of things and look back to those years when nosotros were going to the conference finals and it makes you really capeesh those moments. Because it’south hard. It’due south non easy.
“I call up early on, probably my rookie year, I idea that was just normal. Winning all those games, winning games in the playoffs, probably taking it for granted a footling fleck. Merely to savor those moments, stuff like this happens and I remember it makes you capeesh times like that even more, just knowing how hard it is to win in this league.”
Boston is certainly learning that the hard manner — and over an extended period of time. After the Celtics made it to the Eastern Conference finals 3 times in 4 seasons, they were exactly .500 during the regular flavour final year and are now guaranteed to be under .500 when they attain the halfway mark of the flavour side by side week.
Throughout this season, Udoka — in a stark departure from the style his predecessor, and now Celtics president of basketball game operations, Brad Stevens would operate with the media — has gone after his team for its play on the courtroom in postgame media sessions.
Merely Thursday’s session was arguably his toughest criticism notwithstanding, when he pointedly said his team needs to be smarter and tougher in late-and-close situations.
“It’south been the same result, and it’s some kind of mental toughness in that location, where something goes a little bad and we all first to drop our heads,” Udoka said.
The Celtics volition head back to Boston to face up the Knicks over again Sabbatum night, where they will endeavour to rectify their troubles and become their flavour back on rail.
“We get rattled a lot, particularly when we’re facing adversity,” Celtics center Robert Williams said. “We just have to discover it in ourselves, the grit and the fight, to simply come together when something’s not going our fashion.”