5 takeaways as Celtics end disastrous road trip with blowout loss to Suns

"If you’ve got to make it about your pride, make it about your pride, whatever gets you fired up."

Celtics Suns takeaways
Celtics guard Dennis Schröder trips while driving between Phoenix Suns guard Landry Shamet and guard Chris Paul. AP Photo/Rick Scuteri

Here are the takeaways as the Celtics fell flat once again in a 111-90 loss to the Phoenix Suns on Friday, dropping to 1-4 on their disastrous road trip.

1. Recently, the second quarter seems to be the danger zone — the Celtics have been outscored 35-26, 29-22, 39-22, and now 32-15 in their last four second quarters respectively.

The Suns demolished the Celtics in the second with a flurry of 3-pointers and stifling defense. The Celtics demolished themselves by missing 15 straight triples after Tatum made his first attempt of the game.

If the Celtics could avoid “Outlier Bad” stretches and simply stick to “Normal Bad,” things might look different. With seven minutes remaining in the second quarter, Aaron Nesmith missed a three from the corner. Nesmith’s shot was the Celtics’ seventh straight miss from deep — a cold stretch, but nothing unheard of. At that point, the score was 35-30. If the Celtics snapped out of their slump, the game might have looked a lot different.


Instead, five minutes later, the score was 57-33.

“I think it was kind of like a snowball effect,” Jayson Tatum said. “We let one turnover, one miss kind of build and build instead of moving on to the next play, and kind of let it carry over. And then I think our offense, we let that affect our defense, and they got rolling.”

So, what’s the solution?

“Everybody taking ownership,” Robert Williams said. “If you’ve got to make it about your pride, make it about your pride, whatever gets you fired up and be ready to go.”

2. The Celtics’ 3-point shooting was killer — they finished 4-for-26 from deep. Tatum missed all six of his attempts after his first make, while Al Horford, Aaron Nesmith, Marcus Smart and Dennis Schröder combined to shoot 0-for-13 from behind the arc. Only Grant Williams — who is shooting a sizzling 52.3 percent from the corners — finished with a reasonable total at 2-for-3.

Meanwhile, one of the Celtics’ training camp invitees has helped lead the Rockets — yes, those Rockets — to seven wins in their last 10 games.

Given the Celtics’ 3-point shooting — ranked No. 23 in the NBA — watching Mathews light it up for a lottery team has to sting.


But hey, maybe the Celtics could acquire him in a trade.

3. There’s little to say about the loss itself — a third game in four nights at the end of a brutal West Coast trip, especially against the Suns, is a scheduled loss for any team. If the Celtics pulled out a win against the Jazz and/or took care of business against the Clippers without Paul George and Kawhi Leonard, the reaction might have been different.

Falling behind by 20 for the third game in a row, however, is less understandable, and on Friday, the Celtics didn’t even really seem to have the heart for their trademark half-rally down the stretch. In the end, that doesn’t really matter — the half-rallies don’t mean much other than salvaging the Celtics’ net rating.

Still, the Celtics looked dispirited. Williams was asked if he’s concerned this is just who the Celtics are.

“Nah, because I’ve seen the fight these guys got,” Williams said. “Been fighting with them. So just something we’ve got to get past, find a way to get over that hump, stay there, stay solid with each other, stay together most of all.”

4. After three straight losses — two of which were probably winnable — head coach Ime Udoka was asked if he worries about losing the locker room.


“You’ve take the good with the bad, and the way we played on the way we were playing on the first two games of the trip — I mean, literally three games ago we were playing a totally different style with the effort and the heart and intensity,” he said. “So it’s been inconsistent for sure, but it was just here and it’s been here for most of the year the way we played.”

Udoka added that the Celtics have “a ton of games to play left, honestly” which is true, but not as true as it was a few weeks ago. If the Celtics struggle the rest of the way through December, they could find themselves trying to dig their way out of a big deficit in the standings.

5. To make matters worse, the Celtics have a bruising schedule ahead: Looming games against the Bucks, Warriors and Knicks next week, with the Clippers, Suns, 76ers, Cavaliers and Bucks a second time before the end of the month. How many of the next nine games the Celtics can win — especially with Jaylen Brown’s much-needed return on the horizon — could play a role in Stevens’ decision-making with the roster.

That is, if Brad Stevens doesn’t start making moves on Wednesday when most of the NBA’s contracts become tradable. West coast trips are difficult, but the 13-14 Celtics aren’t offering a lot of reasons for optimism.

“I think it goes both ways — 25 games is enough of a sample size,” Tatum said. “And then, I’m certain that there’s only a handful of games that our whole team has been together. But even without that, there’s some games we wish we could’ve had back, for sure.”


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