Celtics Insider

Forsberg: The video from Monday night's meltdown doesn't lie

Celtics Insider

After Monday night’s embarrassing collapse against the Chicago Bulls, Boston Celtics big man Al Horford said he wanted to re-watch the fourth quarter before passing judgment on what exactly went wrong when the Celtics imploded.

So we did the same. Twice. And it was far more frightening than anything we watched in the ramp to Halloween last week.

The Celtics were impossibly bad on the defensive end, let offensive struggles turn into transition woes, and, continuing last season’s theme, came completely unglued as Chicago made its charge.

Forsberg: Celtics' issues go far beyond Smart's ill-timed comments

Here’s our biggest takeaways after film study:

Marcus Smart should've bit his tongue

We have absolutely no issue with Marcus Smart venting after yet another head-slapping loss. He’s one of the most powerful voices in the locker room and if Smart believes there’s an issue contributing to the team’s uneven play, he shouldn’t be bashful about putting a spotlight on it.

But his criticism of Boston’s offense was misguided, at least a potentially poorly expressed insinuation that Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown don’t want to pass when defenses are keying on them in the fourth quarter.

Tatum, in particular, was forced to repeatedly pass out of double- and triple-teams during Monday’s game. Brown barely saw the ball in the final frame and both players forced some shots. Tatum missed 7 of his 8 fourth-quarter attempts, including a couple near the rim, where he’s shooting an impossibly low 48 percent this season (down from 68 percent last season).

 

The bigger issue is that, when teams force the ball out of the hands of the Jays, the Celtics are left hoping that players like Dennis Schroder and Josh Richardson can knock down big-moment shots.

Schroder, Richardson and Horford are a combined 3-of-15 (20 percent) on fourth-quarter 3s this season. Teams know they can put most of their attention on the Jays and Boston’s supporting cast hasn’t been able to make them pay.

Smart says he wants the ball in his hands more in those situations but he has only two assists in 50 minutes of fourth-quarter play this season. He sounded off on a night where he had zero assists in 33 minutes of court time.

Smart says he wants the ball in his hands more in those situations but he has only two assists in 50 minutes of fourth-quarter play this season. He sounded off on a night where he had zero assists in 33 minutes of court time.

Yes, Tatum and Brown need to work harder to get better looks, especially if it’s getting the ball back after an initial action breaks down. But the Celtics have to do more to make life easier for them.

Brown didn’t get his first shot of the fourth quarter until just about three minutes to play. Maybe part of Smart’s frustration is his own inability to create better opportunities, but he would have been better pointing the finger at himself than insinuating that the issue was with Brown and Tatum.

The primary issue was on the defensive end

Transition defense has been a major sore spot for the Celtics this season and it killed them again on Monday night, especially when Boston's offense went cold in the fourth quarter. The Bulls added 8.5 points per 100 possessions via live-bound rebounds, per Cleaning the Glass data, with a staggering 42.1 percent of their live-ball rebounds leading to transition plays.

The Bulls punished Boston each time the Celtics didn’t get back quickly enough. The 35-year-old Horford has looked particularly spry this season but even he can’t do much when 21-year-old Ayo Dosunmu is racing to the rim early in the quarter to help ignite a rally.

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Horford was a step slow at other times -- something he owned after saying he wanted to see the tape.

"Too many baskets at the rim,” said Horford. "I wasn’t good there at stopping the ball a lot of those times and I need to do better in that regard. I just think that that gave them some life."

Here’s where the Jays deserve their share of blame. Tatum was late getting back on defense while complaining to the officials with about four minutes to go and Chicago immediately attacked for free throws. Tatum has got to stop venting and put his energy into getting back quicker.

 

There was also this play earlier in the frame where Tatum completely loses track of Alex Caruso while cheating to help in case Zach LaVine drives … 

To be fair, LaVine blazed past just about anyone that tried to defend him, including Brown, who didn’t do a great job trying to steer him away from the basket.

The NBA’s defensive tracking data had Horford allowing a jarring 31 points on 13-of-19 shooting by Chicago players; Brown got hit for 30 points on 12-of-15 shooting. Even Smart, despite four steals, allowed 21 points on 8-of-17 shooting. Those are jarring numbers from players who are typically much more stout on the defensive end.

They desperately need energy, floor spacing

We’ll keep screaming it until we’re blue in the face -- and especially after watching Dosunmu, a second-round pick, inject life into the Bulls at various times during Monday’s game: The Celtics could really benefit from some youthful energy.

Aaron Nesmith came off the milk carton briefly for one minute in trash time; Payton Pritchard played little more than seven minutes with only one shot attempt. Would these 2020 draftees be any better than Richardson and Schroder in the fourth quarter? We can’t say for certain. But there’s only one way to find out, and especially as minutes pile up for veterans.

Ultimately, if this team is going to endure some bumpy moments, why not see if the kids can help? They’re more important to the future than Richardson and Schroder.

When it rains it pours

The Celtics didn’t have a single defensive rebound in the final frame. Yes, the Bulls shot 13 of 16 (81.3 percent) but Boston couldn’t even corral their few misses. Horford forgot to box out Nikola Vucevic and got burned by a long rebound in a two-point game with 3:51 to play, leading to a backbreaking second-chance bucket.

Turnovers didn’t help matters, either. Boston had three of its nine turnovers in the final frame. Tatum had one terrible giveaway trying to wrap a pass around Lonzo Ball with Boston clinging to a 2-point lead midway through the frame. Horford gave it away twice in the fourth.

The Celtics need to play with more composure in the game’s biggest moments. Their execution has faltered in key moments during overtime games against the Knicks and Hornets, then throughout the final frame on Monday versus the Bulls.

Some of that falls back on Udoka, who has to be able to draw up an ATO gem in a key spot, or get his team to dig in on the defensive side before things completely unravel.