| The Enterprise
The Boston Celtics needed their medicine cabinet stocked full following the devastating 120-115 overtime loss to the New Orleans Pelicans Sunday.
The bandages would help the Celtics cover up the wounds of a late-game collapse as Boston blew a 24-point, second-half lead that continued a string of uninspiring play.
The loss certainly left a mark and in the aftermath of it, the Celtics are focused on recovering from the gut-punching defeat.
“It hurt. That one stung,” said Celtics coach Brad Stevens. “(Monday’s practice) was about being able to put that behind us and learn from it, learn from what we need to do better in that moment and I think we will do better in that moment.”
Even with two of the top 15 scorers in the NBA in Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, the Celtics have struggled mightily since mid-January and have lost 12 out of their last 19 contests.
Solid wins over the Toronto Raptors and the Denver Nuggets are followed by puzzling losses to team’s that don’t come close to possessing the same level of talent as Boston.
Since Feb. 12, the Celtics have lost to the Detroit Pistons, Washington Wizards and Atlanta Hawks, who have a combined 31-56 record coming into this week. Putting together back-to-back quality performances has been excruciatingly difficult for the Celtics as well. Boston has won two consecutive games only once in the past month.
Stevens is preaching to his club to let that all be in the past and added it will take a franchise-wide effort to move forward.
“A string of tough losses, what we’ve gone through, is hard to swallow and that’s why it’s so important to move on to the next day, the next play,” Stevens said. “Learn, improve, get better and do all that we can to help each other have success. Certainly that’s not just by any means on them or the guys that are playing in the fourth (quarter). I think that’s everybody in the organization and certainly me and my staff in helping as much as we possibly can.”
Boston’s loss to the Pelicans was emblematic of the type of team they are this season. In the first half, the Celtics looked like the perennial Eastern Conference contender with one of the most dynamic young tandems in the league – Tatum and Brown combined for 57 points in the game.
But as has been the case with the Celtics, the only thing they are consistent at is inconsistency. The Celtics fell flat in the fourth quarter and overtime, shooting just 30 percent from the field over the span and allowing 46 points in 17 minutes.
Despite the egregious setback after beating the Hawks on Friday, Stevens said his players remain upbeat in the face of adversity.
“Everybody’s attitude were really good,” said Stevens after their practice session Monday. “When you’re in the midst of this that’s really hard. You feel the weight of a loss like that and you forget all the great things that you did to get up to that lead. In a lot of ways it was our best game up to that point and certainly one of our worst after that point. Just got to put it all together.”
Kemba Walker is still trying to figure things out after missing the first 11 games due to a lingering knee issue. Just one game after scoring a season-high 28 points, Walker had a dismal shooting performance, especially from behind the 3-point line where he was just 1-for-12.
And when the Celtics needed a big bucket from the player their paying $34.4 million this season, according to Spotrac, Walker couldn’t deliver as he went 1-for-9 from the floor in the fourth quarter and overtime.
“When times get tough, I’m not the type to put my head down and be frustrated over it,” said Walker, who is shooting 37.1 percent from the field and 34.8 percent on 3-pointers this season. “I’m just going to continue to work hard and my time will come.”
There’s bound to be frustration from the players when it comes to their lackluster play. It’s evident in Brown saying, “No comment,” when asked about the team’s late-game offense versus the Pelicans and uttering the same phrase after the loss to Wizards when asked about the team’s lack of ball movement.
That frustration can manifest into teammates turning on one another, which Walker aims to avoid.
“We won’t. That’s one of the reasons why I’m here. That’s why I’m one of the leaders of this team is to help prevent situations like that,” Walker said. “Teams go through hard times. Right now, we’re just going through a bit of adversity, but it’s all about how you get out of it. We’re going to continue to build and trust each other. We’ll hit our stride.”