The Boston Celtics have mounted a few fourth-quarter comebacks already this season. But with more than five minutes remaining in Tuesday's game against the Los Angeles Lakers, head coach Ime Udoka appeared to wave the white flag by pulling starters Jayson Tatum, Al Horford and Marcus Smart.
The Celtics play again Wednesday night, so Udoka may have been trying to get his starters some rest with Boston trailing by 15 at the time. But the C's coach said he thought the team was better off with the reserves playing at that point anyway.
"Obviously, the back-to-back played into it, but that unit, there was no spark there," Udoka said of his starters after the game. "... It was just a feel that there wasn’t much there offensively. Defensively all night that was the case, but it wasn’t like we were scoring great with that group anyway, so we wanted a spark there."
Tatum exploded for 14 straight points to begin the game and finished with a game-high 34. But the Celtics' starters were ineffective on both ends for a majority of the 117-102 loss. Dennis Schroder, Smart and Horford combined to shoot just 6 for 22 from the floor, while Robert Williams was a minus-20 despite a pair of highlight-reel dunks.
After pouring in a combined 282 points during the first two games of their West Coast swing, the C's seemed to lack that same energy in Los Angeles.
"I think this may be the second time all season I think that we didn’t necessarily play harder than the other team," Tatum said after the game. "And I think it was kind of an ugly game on our part on both ends. We just didn’t have that same pop and that’s the toughest part about it."
While Boston's offense should bounce back, Udoka's group needs to shore up a defense that's allowed an average of 123.7 points over its last three games.
"It's completely on us, me, my teammates. Just messing up simple coverages," Williams said of the team's defensive struggles.
The Celtics will be back in the same building Wednesday night to face the Clippers at 10:30 p.m. ET.