Celtics no longer bullies in fourth quarter

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Celtics no longer bullies in fourth quarter

CHICAGO In the Big Three era, if you played the Boston Celtics and the game came down to executing in the game's final minute or two, you might as well be playing Russian Roulette.

Because more often than not, the C's closed out such games with deadly precision and accuracy.

Today?

Opponents seem to be playing with house money in those kind of situations, as the Celtics have had problems - lots of problems, actually - closing out games.

Boston (15-14) has lost four of its last five games.

Although each of those games had its own particular denouement, the story line - not getting it done in the fourth - was a constant.

All except the Raptors loss was relatively close throughout the fourth quarter.

"We're not reacting well when teams are making runs," said Boston's Jermaine O'Neal. "It's almost like we go into panic mode. We try to get it all back with one or two plays."

Celtics coach Doc Rivers has often referred to that as playing "home run ball."

Well lately, the C's have been striking out a lot.

In their most recent loss, an 89-80 defeat in Chicago, Boston trailed by as many as 16 points in the third quarter before rallying to take a brief lead in the fourth.

With the score tied at 69, Chicago reeled off 12 straight points and never looked back.

It was a stretch that served as a reminder of not only how good the Bulls with or without Derrick Rose (he did not play due to a back injury), it also proved once again that this Celtics team - for now at least - does not have what it takes to close out games with any kind of consistency.

"It sucks; it sucks," said Ray Allen in describing his team's fourth quarter play this season. "Fourth quarters have been our quarters. In the fourth quarter, regardless of the game, we pull it out. We execute offensively. We know who we're going to go to scoring-wise. Right now, it's up in the air. We know who are scorers are on this team. I just don't think we do a good job of making those plays happen down the stretch."

Curran: McDaniels staying with Pats shouldn't be a shocker

Curran: McDaniels staying with Pats shouldn't be a shocker

For weeks the speculation regarding Josh McDaniels wasn't a matter of "if" but "when."

But while national media had McDaniels signed, sealed and delivered to multiple landing spots, the proposition that he'd leave at all was never a likelihood. 

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The Rams weren't attractive to him from the outset. Jacksonville didn't excite him, either. And on Monday, he passed on the 49ers opportunity. 

The lure of a blank slate in San Fran at quarterback and GM didn't outpace the uncertainty of going cross-country to work for a seemingly dysfunctional franchise that's cycled rapidly through coaches and has an unrealistic sense that it's a long, long way removed from its glory days, the only remnant remaining from that being perhaps the logo on the helmet. 

With four kids and a job McDaniels considers one of the 10 best on coaching -- head man or no -- he will stay on as the Patriots' offensive coordinator.

"I was really impressed with (Niners owner) Jed York and (team executive) Paraag Marathe . . . and the people that came from the 49ers organization," McDaniels said on a conference call this morning. "They did a great job with their presentation. Humbled to be included in that process. At this time it's just best for my family and myself to remain here in New England and focus on this year's playoffs and finish out the year however it turns out."

The same faulty speculative reasoning that had McDaniels as good as gone from the Patriots will move on undeterred today and surmise that McDaniels is staying with the Patriots because he knows, or has been promised, that he'll receive the head coaching job when Bill Belichick steps aside. 

While the Kraft family certainly thinks highly of McDaniels and that could come to pass, anyone tapping their foot and checking their watch waiting for Belichick to step down is in for a long wait. He's showing no signs of wrapping it up and, while I haven't been told directly McDaniels isn't the automatic successor, he wouldn't be taking interviews at all if he were assured that. 

What will be interesting to see is whether interest remains high in him for other jobs or the perception that he's never going to leave means teams don't bother to ask. San Fran obviously had its heart set on McDaniels. Even though Nick Caserio passed on the chance to interview with the Niners for their open GM job, the team did talk to Louis Riddick about the spot. He and McDaniels have high regard for each other. 

Between McDaniels, Caserio and defensive coordinator Matt Patricia, the people closest to Belichick on the coaching flow chart all had chances to go somewhere else and all passed on the chance. It's another example of not why the Patriots are good but why they remain good. Stability. 
 

Monday, Jan. 15: Matthews jersey sells for big money

Monday, Jan. 15: Matthews jersey sells for big money

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while wondering what Claude Julien would do if one of the Bruins players was running Facebook Live during his postgame comments.
 
*Auston Matthews is obviously making a huge impression in Toronto as his Centennial Classic jersey sold for over $11,000 at a charity auction.
 
*Clark Booth knows it’s time to talk about the NFL, but instead he wants to talk about Milt Schmidt. I agree with Clark.

*Sabres goalie Robin Lehner says that his Buffalo teammates need to start doing their job as the season circles down the drain.

*Pierre McGuire talks with TSN sports radio about the Ottawa Senators, and the tough road trip coming up for them.
 
*PHT writer Cam Tucker has more bad news for the Tampa Bay Lightning as Ryan Callahan is going to be out for another four weeks with a lower body injury.
 
*As the Detroit Red Wings continue to round up the bottom in the Atlantic Division, Thomas Vanek may become trade bait.
 
*Peter Budaj is giving the Kings the saves that they need with Jonathan Quick out long term with injury.
 
*For something completely different: Tom E. Curran points out some togetherness issues with the Pittsburgh Steelers based on Antonio Brown’s Facebook post.