Celtics' epic collapse vs. Pelicans is part of a larger problem


The Boston Celtics seemed well on their way to a second straight victory Sunday in New Orleans. Then disaster struck.

The Celtics couldn't maintain a 24-point, third-quarter lead over the Pelicans, who stormed back over the final 18 minutes of regulation and handed Boston a crushing, 120-115 overtime loss at Smoothie King Center.

Jayson Tatum hit a pair of clutch buckets to force overtime and finished with a team-high 32 points, but Brandon Ingram (33 points) and Zion Williamson (28 points) were too much for the Celtics to handle in the second half.

Celtics-Pelicans highlights: Tatum's heroics can't save C's

There's plenty to discuss after this one. Here are three overreactions from Celtics-Pelicans:

1. Tristan Thompson was right: This team has a second half problem.

Thompson had some strong words for his Celtics teammates after they allowed the Hawks to hang around in Friday's win over Atlanta. Apparently they didn't get the message.

Boston let New Orleans mount its largest comeback in franchise history, shooting 20% from 3-point range in the second half while allowing Williamson to score 21 of his 28 points in the second half.

This isn't a recent trend for the Celtics, either: They entered Sunday's game with the NBA's fifth-worst second half scoring margin (negative-2.1 points per game) -- and that was before New Orleans outscored Boston by 16 in the second frame Sunday.

The C's particularly have struggled in the fourth quarter, where they've allowed at least 32 points in three straight games.

Boston's inability to close out games is a big reason why this team sits at .500 (15-15). If the Celtics can't solve their second-half woes, it's hard to see them going very far in the postseason.


Verdict: Not an overreaction

2. It's time for Time Lord to start.

We've been vocal about wanting more minutes for Williams, but he's earning them.

The Celtics center stuffed the stat sheet with eight points, 13 rebounds, three assists and four blocks in roughly 21 minutes of action Sunday. Highlight-reel dunks aside, Williams was Boston's best defender on Williamson and brought an edge the C's have lacked on the defensive end.

Daniel Theis and Tristan Thompson have started in Brad Stevens' two-big lineups, but Williams -- who has 10 blocks in his last three games -- deserves a chance to start in Thompson's stead.

At the very least, Time Lord should be averaging more than 15.2 minutes per game, which ranks 11th on the team behind Jeff Teague.

Verdict: Not an overreaction

3. The Celtics are just fine without JJ Redick if Aaron Nesmith plays like this.

There's been chatter about the Celtics adding Redick ahead of the NBA trade deadline as a veteran sharpshooter off the bench. Nesmith may have heard that chatter, because the C's rookie continues to elevate his game.

Nesmith contributed 10 points, four rebounds and a pair of steals over 26 minutes while maintaining the level of effort that has impressed his teammates of late.

Nesmith was drafted for his shooting ability, but the Vanderbilt product is showing promise at both ends of the floor, and Stevens has rewarded him by playing him least 19 minutes in five consecutive games.

Redick would provide a veteran presence to one of the youngest teams in the league in Boston, and this is still a small sample size for Nesmith.

But if the 21-year-old can give the Celtics a spark off the bench while earning $10 million less than Redick, Danny Ainge may be compelled to look elsewhere on the trade market.

Verdict: Slight overreaction