The Boston Celtics had an 18-point lead in the fourth quarter of Saturday night's matchup against the Charlotte Hornets, and yet they still lost after giving up a 30-5 run to end the game.
The 124-117 defeat was among the most painful for the Celtics this season. They played really well offensively for most of the night, highlighted by five Celtics players scoring in double-figures, including Jaylen Brown's 29 points off the bench.
The game got away from Boston in the fourth quarter, and it was another example of the team's inability to close out games this month.
Here are some troubling fourth-quarter stats for the Celtics in March.
REAL SAD FACTS:
Since March 6th the Celtics have a 129.2 defensive rating in the 4th quarter (yes, that's last in the NBA).
They've been outscored in 7 of 8 4th quarters over that span.
They've allowed 30+ pts in 6.
They've allowed 33+ in 4.
— Max Lederman (@Max_Lederman) March 24, 2019
Saturday night's numbers were similarly disappointing.
Celtics starters in the fourth quarter:
Jayson Tatum: 12 minutes / 2-7 shooting / 4 points / -16
Kyrie Irving: 6 minutes / 1-5 shooting / 2 points / -17
Marcus Morris: 10 minutes / 0-2 shooting / 0 points / -13
Marcus Smart: 3 minutes / 0-2 shooting / 0 points / -6
— Dan Greenberg (@StoolGreenie) March 24, 2019
One of the major issues with the Celtics is not getting to the free throw line. They rank 29th of 30 NBA teams in free throw attempts per game. They also attempt just 6.6 free throws per game in fourth quarters. Brown took two free throws Saturday night at the 10:21 mark of the fourth quarter with the C's up 102-93, and it was the last time Boston went to the free throw line.
The Celtics simply stopped attacking, and the shot chart provides the evidence.
It appears the Celtics may have settled on offense a little bit over the final eight minutes tonight pic.twitter.com/y2xXjgHmU8
— Brian Robb (@BrianTRobb) March 24, 2019
The C's cannot let their foot off the gas pedal in the fourth quarter, especially against teams with a dominant scorer like Hornets guard Kemba Walker. Not only did the C's stop attacking the basket, their defense made no adjustments to slow down Walker and force other Charlotte players to step up. Taking 3-pointers and trying to go for the kill allows the opponent to get stops, excel in transition and build the confidence needed to complete a comeback.
The Celtics must fix their fourth-quarter issues or their playoff run likely will be short lived.
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