The 2013-14 Celtics are blowing gigantic home leads at an insane rate
The Celtics are stuck in a Groundhog Day like cycle at home this season. They get off to scorching hot starts, building gigantic leads that seem insurmountable, only to allow the other team to go on a ridiculous run of their own to get back in the game. The only thing that is not predictable is the final outcome — as the Celtics are able to hold on to win some of the time, while finishing the collapse in others.
In yesterday's case, it was the latter, as Boston let an 18 point lead slip through their fingers against the Hawks, losing 92-91. Off the top of my head, I could think of four times this season where the Cs blew at least an 18 point lead at the Garden. They are:
Biggest lead: 18 points (42-24 with 5:52 left in the 2nd quarter)
Final score: 92-91 Hawks (Atlanta closed on a 68-49 run over last 29:52)
Now keep in mind, this does not count blowing leads of 8 points vs the Pacers and the Clippers, nearly blowing a 25 point lead vs the Jazz, allowing the Nuggets to cut a 27 point deficit down to 3, allowing the Knicks to come from 17 down to take a 9 point lead (before Boston came back), or allowing the Cavs to come from 22 down to have a shot at winning the game with 10 seconds left. Just games that they lost after having really large leads at home.
Considering that Boston has only played 17 home games, it seemed pretty crazy that the Celts had already blown four 18+ point leads in front of their home crowd. So, I decided to do some research to see how often that this had happened to recent Celtics teams.
The answer: in the KG era, it never happened.
Combined, in the 2007-08, 2008-09, 2009-10, 2010-11, 2011-12 and 2012-13 seasons, the Celtics played 290 home games (including playoffs), and never once blew an 18+ point lead.
In fact, the last time it happened was March 21st, 2007, when the Celtics blew an 18 point lead to the Bobcats at the Garden.
So why is this year's Celtics team blowing these ridiculous leads so often? Well, it's probably for a few reasons.
First of all, they're getting off to consistently amazing starts, and just aren't good enough to sustain that type of play. For whatever reason, the Celtics play their best basketball from the opening tip through about the middle of the second quarter. They're going up 15, 20, 25 points on teams that have equal or greater talent, and then watching as those teams answer the bell. Basketball is a game of runs, and the Celtics make theirs coming out of the locker room.
Then there's the fact that the Cs have a ton of young players, a ton of new veterans, and a brand new coaching staff. It's difficult for a young team with a young coach to hold on to these leads. Boston does not have the killer instinct that veterans team have, and it's showing.
And finally, they do not have an alpha dog. The Celtics strength is in their depth, as the team has five rotation quality big men and four rotation quality guards. But what they do not have is a go to scorer or a natural point guard who can can find open guys in crunch time. Obviously, the return of Rajon Rondo will help in that category. But for now, this team is a bunch of solid players without a star to turn to when another team is making a run.
As for how to fix it? Well, as usual, it's easier to diagnose the problem than it is to solve it. Part of blowing such big leads at home has got to be a statistical anomaly, so I would expect the rate in which Boston is blowing these games to slow down. And getting back Rondo (once he's 100%) will obviously help. But I would expect this teams' inability to close games to continue to be an issue all season. Brad Stevens is learning on the fly, and Boston has three rookies in their rotation (and seven new players on their roster). A young team is trying to learn how to win, and often times failing. This is what a rebuild is.
And who knows, maybe a few of these blown leads can be pointed to as the reason the Celtics landed an elite talent in the draft come next June. Then maybe we'll remember the great 22 point blown lead against the Bucks as the game that launched the next great era of Celtics basketball. Never know.