Maybe there is something in the water?
First, the Red Sox season ends when Jonathan Papelbon can’t hold a two-run lead in the ninth inning against the Angels, as the Sox fall 7-6.
Now, the Boston Celtics can’t finish games either.
The latest example came via a major punch to the stomach delivered by Kobe Bryant and the Lakers, as L.A. overcame an eleven-point fourth-quarter deficit to beat the Celtics in Boston 90-89. Bryant hit the game-winning hoop with seven seconds left, that not only gave the Lakers the victory, but it was also their first lead since they led 40-38 mid-way through the second quarter.
Boston has now lost three in a row and six of eight. In the last three games, the Celtics have been outscored in the fourth quarter in each of them, as the Magic, Hawks, and Lakers totaled 85 fourth-quarter points to just 56 for Boston over that stretch.
The Celtics took a 73-66 lead into the fourth quarter and behind a pair of three pointers by Eddie House, Boston led 81-70 with a little over nine minutes to go.
But then the Celtics took their foot off the gas pedal on the offensive end. They turned the ball over repeatedly. They routinely waited too long to get into their offense, often having to settle for a desperation shot as the shot clock wound down.
Defensively, the Celtics played well for most of the quarter. But because the offense was so inept, it placed too much strain on the defense to be perfect. In the end, it didn’t work out.
In the fourth quarter, Boston’s starting five of Rajon Rondo, Kendrick Perkins, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, and Paul Pierce combined for just one field goal and only five points. Rondo, who finished with 21 points and 12 assists, had no points and only one assist in the fourth quarter.
Paul Pierce failed to score in the fourth quarter. Leading by one with under a minute left, Pierce was called for an offensive foul, that set up the Lakers on the winning possession.
The defense played well in the fourth quarter, as the Celtics held Bryant to just 2-7 shooting in the final 12 minutes. But one of those hoops was the game winner.
Ray Allen was all over Bryant, but that is why the problem in this game was the offense. You can’t give Bryant chance after chance. Had the Celtics starters done anything offensively down the stretch, Brant never would have had the chance to win the game at the buzzer.
The fourth quarter mirrored the first quarter, as the Celtics started slowly. The Celtics totaled just 35 points in the first and second quarters.
There were some bright spots in this game, most notably the play of Tony Allen. After the sluggish start, it was Allen as much as anyone who was responsible for the Celtics getting back into the game.
But losing again, and losing with the ball in your hands with the chance at the winning shot at the buzzer to your arch rival, makes it impossible to find anything to be positive about for the Celtics at the moment. Boston is now 29-16, and the loss wrapped up a disappointing January for the Celtics, as they went just 6-8. It was Boston’s first losing month since April 2007.
Where do the Celtics turn? It is difficult to answer. This stretch against the Magic, Hawks, and Lakers represented a major test for the Celtics, and they failed, losing all three games. The three losses included a pair of blown leads in games they never should have lost, against Orlando and now the Lakers, sandwiched around their fourth loss of the year against the Atlanta Hawks.
At least the bad taste of this loss might not linger too long, as the Celtics get right back at it tomorrow night in Washington against the Wizards.
But regardless of how that games turns out, these last three losses have to at least cause all those associated with the Celtics to wonder if this team as constructed has what it takes to beat the elite teams in the league.
And if the answer is no, the question suddenly becomes what has to be done to put the team back in the position we all expected them to be in when the season began.