BOSTON – Limiting an opponent to just 89 points scored and less than 40 percent shooting from the field, is usually a recipe for success most of the time.
Even before the 89-83 loss to Charlotte on Wednesday, Celtics coach Brad Stevens has stressed the need for his team's defense to improve.
When asked about it following the loss, Stevens replied, "OK."
He later added, "We did a better job towards the end of really clamping down and protecting the paint. I didn't think we did a very good job of that in the first half."
In the first half, Charlotte had a 24-22 edge in points in the paint and an 8-4 advantage on second-chance points.
But even with the numbers statistically close, Stevens felt that his team seemed to be a step too late most of the game.
"They were just quicker to the basketball all night," Stevens said. "In every which way, and I thought they did a great job right out of the gate establishing a tone of the way the game was going to be played and it was hard for us to manage that as we moved forward."
And moving forward is exactly what the Celtics have to do now that their four-game winning streak has been snapped with an assortment of factors contributing to the loss.
And with that we have the Good, the Bad and the Ugly in what was arguably the Celtics' worst game, from an effort standpoint, this season.
He has been a surprisingly efficient scorer, connecting on a team-best 56.1 percent of his shots this season. On Wednesday, Lee had 10 points on 4-for-8 shooting which included a pair of 3-pointers.
When Jordan Crawford missed his first free throw of the season, that was an omen of sorts for the kind of night it would be for the Celtics. They shot 72 percent for the game (18-for-25), but came up short in some critical moments. None seemed bigger than Jeff Green, a 74-percent free-throw shooter, missing two with eight minutes to play that would have cut Charlotte's lead to a single point.
They were outscored 34-28 by Charlotte's backups, but the real issue was impact; specifically Boston's second unit not making one. Stevens and his players are not going to pin this loss on not being at full strength, but there's no doubt that the absence of Jared Sullinger (bone bruise, right knee) was a major factor in the loss. This team doesn't have the kind of depth to lose a key player like Sullinger, even if it is for one game.
The total (15) wasn't terribly bad, but the time of them was an absolute killer. Five came in the fourth quarter. The miscues only generated five points for Charlotte, but more important than that, they took away five potential scoring opportunities that loom large considering it was such a low-scoring affair.
The Bobcats out-worked the Celtics all game long, something that this team can not allow to happen. They proved during their four game winning streak that when they out-effort opponents, it works. Games like Wednesday's loss are often dismissed as being just "one of those nights."
Still, this team can't afford to have many games like this, especially against teams such as the Bobcats, who play with great effort every night.