Celtics

7 takeaways as Celtics blow another big second-half lead in loss to Cavaliers

"We relax too much."

Celtics Cavaliers takeaways
Boston Celtics' Romeo Langford grabs a rebound ahead of Cleveland Cavaliers' Dylan Windler. AP Photo/Tony Dejak

Here are the takeaways as the Celtics blew a 19-point second-half lead to the Cavaliers and fell 91-89.

1. We’re tired of writing it. You’re (presumably) tired of reading it. The Celtics must be tired of saying it.

And yet: “We relaxed all the way,” Robert Williams said after the game. “It’s something we’ve been doing a lot lately and we really just need to fix it. That’s all I can say. We relax too much.”

So what do the Celtics need to do? Ime Udoka’s answer was one of his most concise all season.

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“Toughen up, learn, grow, move on,” he said.

2. The Celtics started slipping late in the third quarter when they brought in a strange lineup featuring Aaron Nesmith, Jabari Parker, Payton Pritchard, Grant Williams, and Romeo Langford. That group played nearly three minutes to end the third (as the lead shrank from the game-high 19 to 12) and largely remained in the game for the start of the fourth. By the time Parker — the last member of that unit — checked out at the 9:23 mark, the Celtics led by just three and Cavaliers fans were into the game.

Udoka noted that members of that group played well in the second quarter and he wanted to give them a chance to continue.

The big takeaway? The Celtics could have used Josh Richardson for a steadier hand and (especially) Jaylen Brown, who continues to rehab from a hamstring injury.

3. At some point soon, it might be fair to start worrying about Jayson Tatum a little more earnestly. The Celtics are now 13 games into their season, and Tatum is shooting a catastrophic 39 percent on 22.4 field-goal attempts per game. He was 8-for-22 on Saturday (1-for-8 from 3) and scored 21 points.

“Got frustrated, played in the crowd a little bit, had some turnovers there late, some sloppy ones,” Udoka said. “He has to be able to impact the game when he’s not scoring in the ways he has in the past, which he can do.”

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To Udoka’s point: Three of Tatum’s six turnovers came in the fourth quarter, and all were costly as the Celtics tried to recover the lead they squandered.

For most of the offseason, the mantra here for the Celtics was that they would go as far as Tatum and Brown took them, which still feels accurate. As Tatum struggles, the Celtics are 6-7. Correlation is not causation, but maybe sometimes it is.

4. A bright spot after an otherwise dark game: The Celtics’ defense has been stifling — first in the NBA in their last six games, and up to fifth overall after a slow start.

5. One thing for frustrated Celtics fans to consider: The 9-5 Cavaliers are just good. They have rotation pieces in Ricky Rubio and Cedi Osman. They have real young talent in Darius Garland and Jarrett Allen. And most importantly, they have a potential superstar in Evan Mobley.

“He’s tall as hell,” Robert Williams, who is not short, noted after the game before praising Mobley in other ways as well. Mobley, a 7-footer, has a nice-looking jumper, and he’s incredibly mobile. He’s a deterrent at the rim for drivers (one of Tatum’s issues on Saturday appeared to be his reluctance to attack Mobley and Allen), and he can break out some truly absurd plays like his transition block against Tatum.

The Celtics certainly should have won a game they led by 19. But they didn’t just blow the lead. The Cavaliers also took that win.

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6. Dennis Schröder had another nice game with 28 points on 10-for-19 shooting and once again looked like he might need to be a mainstay in the starting lineup, one way or the other.

7. After the game, Schröder was asked if the Celtics are frustrated.

“It’s not frustration,” he said. “We lost. It happens. We can lose sometimes. Sometimes, you blow a lead and you lose a game, it happens. I’ve come back from minus-26 before. It happens.”

He’s right, even though the Celtics do seem particularly prone to these types of losses. The truth is the Celtics have looked great defensively the last few weeks, and they won four of their last five games prior to Saturday’s collapse. If anything, Saturday felt like a case of a good young team that took advantage of a bad lineup (Parker did not endear himself to Celtics fans during his stint). The Cavaliers caught a momentum heater that never went away.

That won’t make Celtics fans feel any better on Saturday, which is fair. But a win on Monday might go a long way toward assuaging the very legitimate concerns.

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