Celtics' reliance on the 3 proves costly in 2OT loss to Knicks


For the first time since late January, and for just the sixth time this season, the Celtics have lost consecutive games, as the New York Knicks got the best of them in Sunday night’s 131-129 double overtime thriller.

With the win, the Knicks take the season series over the Celtics three games to one, marking the first time since 2013 New York has won the season series between the two. The loss also drops Boston a full game and a half behind the Milwaukee Bucks for the top spot in the Eastern Conference.

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This one felt like a game the Celtics needed. They had lost their last two games against the Knicks, and were coming off a game on Friday night in which they blew a 28-point lead to the Brooklyn Nets.

In what was a back and forth game for most of the first half, the Celtics pulled away a little bit late in the second quarter and into the early third, as they built a 14-point lead with 6:23 left in the third quarter.

The Knicks came storming back, though, as they closed the third quarter on an 18-5 run and took the lead entering the fourth on a Julius Randle stepback three.

Boston trailed by as many as 11 in the fourth quarter, but behind some big defensive stops and two separate scoring runs, the Celtics would tie the game with 12 seconds left on a big three-point play from Jaylen Brown.

The Celtics were forced into their 10th overtime game of the season, which is tied for most in the NBA with the Knicks. When Boston needed a big shot in the first overtime, they went to Al Horford, who had a monster night. Horford played 46 minutes, the most he has played in a game since 2013. He finished with 20 points and a season-high 14 rebounds, notching his sixth double-double of the season.

Horford would have a similar look in the second overtime period, but was unable to knock it down.

Here’s what went wrong in Sunday night’s loss:

Couldn’t hit down low

The Celtics led by seven points at halftime and that number could have been a lot higher if they hadn’t shot 12-of-23 (52%) in the paint, and 11-of-20 (55%) in the restricted area.

The Celtics’ pace of play, as well as their ball movement, generated high-percentage looks that they weren’t able to take advantage of.

On the night, Boston shot 21-of-47 (44.6%) in the paint and 19-of-35 (54.3%) in the restricted area, both well below the league average.

Living by the three

The Celtics set a new franchise record Sunday night for most three-pointers attempted in a game with 59, despite generating good looks down low.

Though they shot 21-of-59 (35.6%), which isn’t bad, 59 threes is way too many. Looking back to the last meeting between these two teams, Boston jacked up 42 threes, only making nine of them (21.4%), despite shooting 28-of-42 (66.6%) inside the arc.

Jayson Tatum set a new career high for three-point attempts with 17 in the loss Sunday night, despite his most efficient quarter coming in the first, when he was attacking the rim.

This is the identity of Joe Mazzulla’s Celtics, and it can be worrisome. When you have a guy like Tatum, who’s listed at 6-foot-8 and can finish, he should not be attempting 17 threes. The Celtics need to find the offensive balance they had in the beginning of the season, because living by the three ball is not a wise thing to do come playoffs.

Overtime struggles

Overtime games have not been kind to the Celtics this season. In their 10 overtime games, they have a 4-6 record.

It was the three-point shooting again that killed the Celtics in the overtime periods, as they shot 2-of-10 (20%) from deep. Ten of their 14 shot attempts in the overtime periods were threes, which again is far too many.

It didn’t help that in 10 minutes of overtime play, Brown, who leads the NBA in overtime points this season, was held scoreless.

Quick turnaround

The Celtics will now travel to Cleveland Monday night to take on the Cavaliers, and Mazzulla could be dealing with a very short lineup. Mazzulla announced pregame that Robert Williams will miss 7-10 days with a hamstring strain, Malcolm Brogdon has missed the last two games with an ankle injury, and the team just played a double overtime game.

Horford hasn’t played in any back-to-backs this season and given the fact he played 45 minutes, it’s almost certain he won’t play Monday night. It will be interesting to see what lineup Mazzulla can piece together for Monday night.

Featured Image Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports