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Second Half Struggles Continue for Boston Celtics

The Boston Celtics continued their run of second half struggles blowing a 23 point lead to lose to the Atlanta Hawks on Tuesday 109-105 in Atlanta.  This marks the sixth loss for the Celtics with a lead going into the second half or going into the fourth quarter, just in the last nine games.

Clearly the Celtics are having a hard time finishing strong lately, likely a product of the inexperienced Brad Stevens and the youthful leadership core.  The Celtics held leads going into halftime against the Bulls, Blazers, Cavaliers, and Thunder within the last nine games, and boasted a lead going into the fourth quarter against a thriving Phoenix team, only to fall short in each match-up. It should come as no surprise: the Celtics have the WORST fourth quarter margin in the NBA this season (-5.4), as well as the third worst second half margin (-4.6 on the year, a league worst -16.4 in their last 3).  This Celtics team has earned an early reputation as an offensive juggernaut who cannot translate the same intensity to the defensive end, but the performances displayed over the past three weeks in the latter half of games have been nothing more than dismal on both ends.

Second Half Struggles Continue for Boston Celtics

Don’t get me wrong- in all of the aforementioned contests, especially the most recent loss to the Hawks, the Celtics have looked like absolute studs in the first half.  The team put up 42 points in the first quarter alone against Atlanta and looked like they were firing on all cylinders, only for the engine to quickly break down.  Like any sport and any league, basketball in the NBA is a game of adjustments- particularly on the defensive end of the floor.  What this team seems to lack is the leadership, experience, and overall grit to adapt mid game and roll with the punches and adjustments of the opposing squad.

Yes I’m looking at you Brad (Most Likely to Look Like the Kid You Beat Up in High School) Stevens.  The preparation for each game has looked stupendous so far as the Celtics have stayed with teams they have no business of playing tight with and have been destroying teams in the first half that they SHOULD be playing tight with.  However, Stevens’ inexperience is shining through ever so clearly.  Questionable personnel changes, bad match-ups, and overall lack of control over the tempo and momentum of the game in the second half have proved to be deadly for the Celtics.  Little to no adjustments are being made in game and the Celtics look like chickens with their heads cut off scrambling for life when it comes down to the wire.  Pretty soon fans are going to get fed up with these collapses if they continue, and I’d expect Stevens’ head to be first on the chopping block.

Leadership also starts with your veteran point guard: now I’m looking at you, Rajon Rondo.  The stats are obviously there, he is at the top of the league in assists and had a tremendous performance tonight in the first half.  However, in the NBA, players lead by example and through body language.  Rondo can throw all the flashy passes he wants and get all the easy steals, but if you watch him play live there is no aggressiveness, no tenacity, and no sign of a willingness to lead whatsoever.  Deadpan face and no commitment on the defensive end from your All-Star point guard sets a bad precedent for the rest of your team and I think contributes to the Celtics second half woes.

Overall, I still believe the Celtics have the talent to be a middle of the road playoff team this year, but it largely depends on Stevens and Rondo.  The supporting pieces are doing their parts and are playing their roles, but the leadership core must step up for the Celtics to elevate themselves to the next level.  Figure it out, Celtics.


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