How Robert Williams, Celtics are addressing team's late-game struggles

How Robert Williams, Celtics are addressing team's late-game struggles originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

The Boston Celtics have developed some frustrating habits of late. But at the very least, they're self-aware.

The C's have let two undermanned teams off the hook in their last two games at TD Garden -- a Game 5 loss to the Dejounte Murray-less Atlanta Hawks in the first round and a Game 1 loss to the Joel Embiid-less Philadelphia 76ers in Round 2.

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According to big man Robert Williams, their lack of execution late in those games is an issue that's been addressed directly in Boston's locker room.

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"It something athletes just tend to do sometimes. I can't really explain it, honestly," Williams told NBC Sports Boston's Abby Chin in an exclusive interview before Wednesday's Game 2, as seen in the video above. "It's a terrible feeling when you catch yourself in the moment doing it, but it's something that we try to work on.

"It's something that we've been trying to instill in our group that we tend to let leads go a lot late in the game. We did it a lot in the Atlanta series, and just knowing that we've got to get through that breaking point to get to where we wanna be at the end of the season."


Joe Mazzulla plays a key role in getting that message across, both with his actions and non-actions. The first-year head coach developed a reputation this season for keeping timeouts in his pocket when opposing teams go on runs, preferring that his players learn to self-correct on the fly.

"He wants us to take full responsibility," Williams said of Mazzulla. "He'll tell us sometimes, 'I'm not gonna call a timeout just because y'all made some stupid mistakes. Own up to it, dissect to see what the problem is and play through it.'"

Mazzulla has been quicker on timeout trigger in the postseason, where the stakes are higher and the competition is stiffer. He's still made a point to stress accountability, though, to the point where both the coaching staff and Celtics players dish out criticism in addition to receiving it.

"There's not really any sugar-coating on any part of the players or the coaching staff if someone messes up," Williams added. "Everyone is vocal enough to address it and we've got people that can reciprocate great energy, and they know how to take constructive criticism."


That's a good locker room atmosphere to create, but the Celtics will need to put their words into action by fixing the issues that have plagued them, such as their defensive lapses against both Atlanta and Philly and their stagnated crunch-time offense in Monday's Game 1.

A good time to start would be Wednesday night in Game 2 at TD Garden, where the C's will look to avoid falling into an 0-2 hole and snap a two-game home losing streak.