The Boston Celtics came up just short of extending their win streak to three games as they fell to the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday night, 99-97.
Dejounte Murray returned after missing five games due to health and safety protocols and made an immediate impact in the Spurs' victory. The 25-year-old dropped a team-high 22 points to go with 12 rebounds in 33 minutes, helping San Antonio snap a four-game skid.
Also returning from health and safety protocols was Celtics star Jayson Tatum, who finished with 19 points. Jaylen Brown led the C's with 30, but the All-Star wing couldn't get the most important bucket in the game's final seconds.
Here are three instant takeaways from the Celtics' loss, which brings them to 18-20 on the campaign. They'll head to New York for the second night of a back-to-back against the Knicks.
Celtics keep finding new ways to lose
We don't have a stat to back this up, but the Celtics have found more ways to lose games this season than any other team in the league.
Costly miscues, blown leads, and fourth-quarter collapses have haunted Boston. Wednesday night may not have been the "worst loss" of the season -- that title probably still belongs to that Minnesota game -- but it's one that will sting for a while.
Brown came up with the clutch steal with 5.7 seconds left in the fourth quarter. He took it to the basket with a chance to force overtime but was unable to get the layup to go at the final buzzer.
The Celtics also had a chance to force OT or win the game seconds before that final shot. Brown appeared to give Boston possession with a steal but instead, the result was a jump ball.
It doesn't get much more painful than that.
Jaylen Brown picks up where he left off
The good news is Brown continues to look fantastic. That missed game-tying buzzer-beater will stick in his head, but he was the best player on the court Wednesday as he followed up his 50-point outing with a game-high 30 points on 12-of-25 shooting.
The 25-year-old has by far been the Celtics' most impactful offensive player as of late. In his last 11 games since returning from his hamstring injury, Brown is averaging 29.1 points. He has notched at least 30 points in five of his last eight games.
Brown also made an impact on the defensive end in Wednesday's loss with his two steals and a block.
Jayson Tatum shakes off the rust
Tatum made his much-anticipated return to the Celtics lineup after missing four games due to health and safety protocols. It was clear from the get-go there was some rust that needed to be shaken off.
The two-time All-Star got off to a slow start with only two points on six first-quarter shots. He finished the first half with 11 points, but was slow out the gate again in the third quarter with only four points (0-for-4 FG).
Tatum started to find his groove again in the fourth, tallying six points and going 3-for-6 from the field. All in all he ended with 19 points (6-for-20), eight rebounds, three assists, and two blocks.
Not the most efficient night for Tatum, but it's to be expected with the 23-year-old returning from COVID-19. He'll look to take another step forward Thursday night at Madison Square Garden.
An alarming Jaylen Brown/Jayson Tatum stat
Jaylen Brown continues to score at will, and Jayson Tatum's return undoubtedly will benefit the C's going forward, but one glaring stat from Wednesday's loss was impossible to ignore.
Out of the Celtics' 19 total assists, zero of them involved Brown to Tatum or Tatum to Brown. Not a single one.
This has been a trend in the 20 games Boston has had its All-Star duo on the floor this season. Tatum has made 301 shots this season and Brown has assisted on only four of them.
Entering the campaign, the main critique of both Brown and Tatum was that they need to get their teammates more involved. The numbers show that not only do they need to lean more on their supporting cast, but they also need to improve their playmaking when it comes to maximizing one another's talents. Those assist numbers just aren't going to cut it.
The Celtics are 9-11 this season when Brown and Tatum are both active.