BOSTON Putting teams in a deep hole seems to be getting easier of late for the Boston Celtics.
Now keeping them there is another matter.
The woeful Charlotte Bobcats were the latest team that the Celtics allowed to keep the game closer than it should be, before Boston ultimately pulled away for the win.
Boston (27-22) has won four of its last five games, and have led by double digits in all five. And of the four games the Celtics won, all but one ended with a single-digit Celtics win.
C's coach Doc Rivers has been harping on his players to improve in all phases of their play, including how to put a team away when they get up comfortably.
"He wants us to be creatures of habit on the defensive end and offensive end," Celtics forward Brandon Bass told CSNNE.com.
Doing so is easier said than done, especially when playing on the road.
In Boston's last five games, all but the Washington game on Sunday was on the road.
That also happens to be the Celtic's only double-digit win (88-76) among their last set of five games, although a 12-point win doesn't look all that appealing when you consider Boston led by as many as 25 points.
Still, that doesn't explain away how an 18-point lead at Charlotte, the worst team in the NBA, is a game that wasn't really decided until the final minutes of the fourth quarter.
Bass attributes part of the challenge in burying a team like Charlotte, to how they view the C's coming to town.
"We know teams like the Bobcats, they mark us on the schedule," Bass said. "They look forward to playing against us. We knew they were going to fight, but we wanted to make sure we got the win."
The Celtics did just that.
But as the playoffs get closer, just winning games can't be enough. Because a number of Boston's opponents down the stretch don't have impressive records, the C's can't just win - they have to win playing well.
And the easiest way for that to happen, is to take control and not allow the game to get close once they establish control.
More than anything else, Boston's inability to bury teams after getting a sizable lead, comes down to being more consistent.
"We can't play in spurts," said C's Paul Pierce. "We're trying to build for the playoffs. It's good that we can build big leads. But the thing is, we give them up and feel like we can build them back up again. In order to win in the playoffs, you have to start building habits now. When you have a chance to put a team away, you gotta do it. That's where we're trying to get to."