11/1: Celtics lead Bucks by 22 points midway through third quarter. Bucks cut it to 12 going into fourtth quarter. Beat Celtics, 105-98. 12/6: Celtics lead Nuggets by 24 points to start second quarter. Lead is cut to three. Boston holds on, 106-98 12/13: Celtics lead Knicks by 17 points in second quarter. Knicks tie it midway through thirrd quarter. Knicks take 11-point lead in fourth before Boston goes on 10-0 run. Boston comes back and wins, 90-86. 12/18: Celtics lead Pistons by 21 points early in second quarter. Then they shoot 29.2 percent from field in third quarter to allow Pistons to get to one point behind going into fourth quarter. Celtics lose, 107-106. 12/21: Celtics lead Wizards by 18 points early in second quarter. Outscored by Wizards 22-7 in final six minutes of game. Celtics lose, 106-99. And then, of course, came Saturday's 19-point fourth-quarter lead that was cut down to two in the final seconds.
The Celts have allowed numerous opponents to get back into the game after opening up double digit, and in many cases 20+ point gaps. So why the hell is this happening?
Let's take a look at some reasons for these collapses:
1. Turnovers. As Toscano points out, the Celtics assist/turnover ratio in the fourth quarter is one… as in they have turned the ball over just as many times as they have assisted on a basket in the fourth quarters all season long! With a stat like this it's amazing Boston has hung on to as many victories as they have.
Now this area of the problem promises to be much improved when/if Rajon Rondo returns this season. His court control alone figures to not only limit turnovers, but set teammates up for better opportunities.
2. Lack of a "go-to-guy". A term that has been growing in the NBA over past seasons is one stolen from MLB, the "closer". Brad Stevens' squad is not equipped with a closer, and that makes finishing out games tough.
A fan base that has been able to rely on Paul Pierce for the last 15 years is now forced to rely on the likes of Jeff Green and Jared Sullinger. Not to say Sully does not have stardom in his future, but both players are much too inconsistent at the moment.
There have been whispers of acquiring a center to build around next to Rondo and Sully, but you can bet one of Danny Ainge's next moves will be for a consistent wing scorer - even if it is this summer.
3. Youth. And we are not just talking about the players here, Brad Stevens is the youngest coach in the NBA. On top of the learning curve that Stevens is up against, this is still a young team. Although veterans like Brandon Bass have stepped up when called upon, many of the young players have been handed minutes to see what they can do.
Again, Rondo could play a huge roll here in bringing maturity on the court to the team. Banking on Rondo's return however, could be a longer wait than anticipated.
4. This is just who they are! Lets face it, inconsistency is going to be the identity of the Boston Celtics this season. Sorry for bursting your bubble if you expected otherwise.
As great as Stevens has been, he still has a lot to learn. His "best player" is, and has been, one of the most inconsistent players in the league for years in Jeff Green.
Jordan Crawford's breakout season is slowly coming back to life… and could come to a screeching halt when Rondo returns (sell high now). Avery Bradley and the rest of the kids still have plenty of learning to do… which means ups and downs along the way.
Sullinger has been their true bright spot. With the potential to develop into one of the better scoring/rebounding bigs in the NBA, Sully could have a Kevin Love type future in Boston - which would be tremendous.
Bass has been the rock of this team. In my mind he is what holds them together in many of their wins, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Bass could be traded to a contender before the deadline, it wouldn't be a surprise at all, but it would drop this team down to a new level of unpredictability.
Finally, speaking of unpredictability, we don't even know if Rondo will return! Yes, much like the potential of Bass being traded, this has nothing to do with why they have been blowing leads thus far. However, it has a lot to do with why they may continue to do so throughout the season.
You never know with Rondo, it feels like he wants to play, but it's impossible to ignore that the date keeps getting pushed back.
So there you have it ladies and gentleman, your wildly inconsistent 2013-14 Boston Celtics! The crazy part? We still may see them host a playoff series…