Shorthanded or not, the Christmas Day loss for the Boston Celtics to the Milwaukee Bucks was merely the latest setback for a team that's become all too complacent blowing big leads.
Boston led Milwaukee by 13 points with 5:29 remaining, a cushion it had built up after seeing a 19-point lead dwindle to a single point earlier on in the fourth quarter. But the Bucks closed the game on a 21-4 run, dropping the Celtics back below .500 at 16-17 in the process.
At least one player on the team, however, said that the team is still learning how to finish off close games.
"The way we're looking at it, I think we can only go up from here," second-year guard Payton Pritchard said. "We're learning how we're gonna finish these games. We've gotta take it as a good thing; we're just growing and eventually we'll get good and be able to take care of it."
Pritchard, whose strong stretch of games continued Saturday with 16 points, likened the loss to a recent game against the Philadelphia 76ers in which Boston blew a seven-point lead with 3:40 remaining, making the comparison between Giannis Antetokounmpo and Sixers star big man Joel Embiid.
"I think it's similar to the Philly game," Pritchard said. "We just can't give them easy buckets like we gave Giannis."
Pritchard's optimism is admirable, but the Celtics are now 6-12 in "clutch situations" this season, games in which a team is leading or trailing by five points or fewer with under five minutes to go in regulation. Their .333 winning percentage is fifth-worst in the 30-team NBA.
"We have to figure out as a team and a coaching staff how to maintain these leads," head coach Ime Udoka said.