Good, Bad & The Ugly: Troublesome 3rd quarter

Good, Bad & The Ugly: Troublesome 3rd quarter
December 21, 2013, 5:00 pm
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BOSTON — The third quarter has been the epicenter for what has been a world of problems lately for the Boston Celtics.

There were a number of stretches that ultimately factored into Boston's 106-99 loss to the Washington Wizards.

But it was their troubles in the third quarter that set their second straight loss into motion.

Boston (12-16) began the third quarter with three straight turnovers.

"That's how we've been playing in the third quarter," said Avery Bradley who finished with a season-high 26 points. "We had lapses on the offensive and defensive end, and that hurt us a lot."

The Celtics have been outscored in the third quarter in five of their last six games, showing a lack of focus coming out of the half that they simply can not afford to have if they are to remain a competitive bunch.

"Right now we're not understanding the game," said Boston's Gerald Wallace. "We're getting too comfortable with our shots falling. Just like anybody, when you're making shots the game looks a lot easier. When you're not making shots, it's tough. When those shots are not falling, it puts a lot of pressure on your defense. That's what we've done ... we're forcing a lot of shots and we're not making them."

And those third quarter struggles spill into the fourth which is when the Celtics begin to revert back to the undisciplined brand of basketball seen during the preseason and early part of the regular season last month.

"Right now, in the fourth quarter we're not making plays to the rim," Wallace said. "We're settling for jump-shots."

By doing so, the Celtics find themselves settling for good but not great performances which on most nights, isn't enough for them to win.

And with that we have the Good, the Bad and the Ugly from Saturday's loss.

The Good

Avery Bradley

He got hot in the second half and never cooled off until Brad Stevens took him out briefly in the fourth quarter. Bradley had 13 points in the fourth, but only three came after he re-entered the game after a two minute rest on the bench. Still, that shouldn't take away from a season-high 26 point game.

Jared Sullinger

It's becoming less and less an issue that Sullinger is this team's best player. Dealing with a pair of bigger, athletic bigs in Marcin Gortat and Kevin Seraphin, Sullinger was an unstoppable force for most of the game. He finished with his Xth double-double this season of 22 points and 11 rebounds.

The Bad

Free throw shooting

Boston, which came into Saturday's game ranked 11th in the NBA in free throw percentage (76.9), connected on just 11 of its 18 attempts, or a season-low 61.1 percent.

The ugly

Blown lead

Losing is bad enough. Compounding the matter is when you get beat after having a ginormous lead the way the Celtics have this season. Saturday's loss was yet another one in which they had a commanding lead before eventually suffering a crushing defeat.

Players will try their best to put the loss behind them which is easier when you consider they play again on Sunday night at Indiana. But this loss can only help them going forward if it becomes a teachable moment that reminds them of how important it is for them to not just take a big lead, but hold on to it and finish teams off.