NEW YORK – Another close game, another loss for the Boston Celtics.
Forget about defense.
Losing games down the stretch is gradually becoming the identity of the Celtics following yet another winnable game slipping through their hands and ending with a 120-114 loss to the New York Knicks.
Boston (19-19) has now lost four straight and six of its last seven games, looking nothing like the team that just a couple of weeks ago was in the hunt for one of the top spots in the East.
At this point, re-establishing themselves as a playoff team would be a step up.
Of their six recent losses, four were by six points or less with multiple opportunities in each game to assume control down the stretch.
Instead, the Celtics committed turnovers, took bad shots offensively but more than anything else, were seemingly at their worst defensively when they needed to make plays.
“We didn’t come through. We didn’t execute late,” said Boston’s Jae Crowder. “It’s disappointing. It was set up for us to win. Can’t blame nobody but ourselves.”
In the first half, Boston had major problems defending Carmelo Anthony and Kristaps Porzingis.
But a sprained right ankle injury took Anthony off the floor 19 seconds into the third quarter and he never returned. He finished with 17 points on 7-for-10 shooting in just under 18 minutes.
And while Porzingis was quite dominant with a team-high 26 points, he spent the final 2:44 of the game on the bench after fouling out.
Their best player, gone for most of the second half.
The player who was having the best game on the Knicks roster (Porzingis), gone down the stretch.
And the Celtics still couldn’t close the game out.
Apparently it wasn’t just Anthony and Porzingis benefiting from what’s shaping up to be a very beatable, easily scored upon Celtics defense.
“We have to get back to being who we are, and that’s a defensive-minded team,” Boston’s Amir Johnson told CSNNE.com. “I don’t know how we’re going to get back, but we have to find a way and soon because this season isn’t slowing down for nobody.”
Crowder added, “We’re struggling on the defensive end. We’re giving guys confidence and its killing us. We’re not doing what we need to do defensively. Our focus is not where it needs to be on the defensive end at the moment.”
When asked what is missing defensively, cohesiveness was Crowder’s response.
“All five guys on the same page,” he said. “We have four guys sometimes, three guys sometimes. We don’t have all five guys engaged at a pivotal time. It’s costing us. We let guys get in the bonus early in the third. So that takes away our aggression. Guys get comfortable. Guys can do what they want to do on the offensive end.”