Anatomy of a collapse: 10 Takeaways from Boston Celtics-Chicago Bulls

1. Let’s start with some numbers, shall we? The Boston Celtics held a 94-75 lead with 2:53 to play in the third quarter. From that point forward, over 14:53 of game action, the Chicago Bulls ripped off a 53-20 run.

53 points allowed in just over one quarter of action.

In just the fourth quarter, Chicago shot 13-of-16. On the three misses, the Bulls grabbed two offensive rebounds and the third was knocked out of bounds for a team rebound.

Boston grabbed exactly zero defensive rebounds in the quarter.

The Celtics shot 5-of-23 overall and 0-for-8 from behind the arc.

That’s how you end up with a 39-11 quarter and a complete collapse.

In all, it was the first time in the NBA’s shot-clock era that a team has lost a game by 14 or more points that they also led by 14 or more points in the fourth quarter.

2. As Ime Udoka and Al Horford both noted, the wheels got loose for Boston in at the end of the third quarter before falling off entirely in the fourth. On this play, Horford challenges Zach LaVine at the rim and forces a miss. No one even attempts to put a body on Tony Bradley though and the result is an easy putback:

3. Ime Udoka has preached over and over again that things have gone poorly for Boston’s defense when they don’t help. To end the quarter, Zach LaVine waltzes right to the rim for an easy layup:

4. The two plays above aren’t great, but there is plenty of time for the Celtics to figure things out. They start the fourth quarter with Jayson Tatum getting to the rim. Unfortunately, Tatum is shooting an abysmal 43.3% at the rim to open this season:

5. Another item on Ime Udoka’s list of issues has been the Celtics transition defense. This is when everything really went sideways for Boston. It’s a nice block by Alex Caruso to start the play, but then everyone just kind of jogs back. Note: Boston’s lead had already shrunk to single-digits by this point:

6. Remember the lack of help defense? If Al Horford or Robert Williams (Horford was out of the game and Williams was on the perimeter) aren’t there, it doesn’t exist. Both Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum could have helped here. Layup for Zach LaVine:

7. This is an awful turnover from Jayson Tatum. It’s not a kickball either, as many screamed. A kickball needs to be intentional. Tatum just whips this no-chance pass into the defender’s leg:

8. In both of the losses to the Wizards last week, the Celtics failed to secure a late-game rebound. It happened again here. These plays are so deflating, because the shoulders slump and the heads drop:

9. Jaylen Brown goes too long in fourth quarters without quality touches. The offense becomes far too Tatum-centric. That’s been an issue dating back to the bubble. But when Brown does get a touch, he has to do better than missing layups:

10. Marcus Smart had some pointed comments after the game about the Celtics late-game offensive struggles. You’ve probably seen them by now, or you’re likely purposefully avoiding them. Can’t blame you if that’s the case.

The reality is, Smart picked an odd time for this criticism. It’s not that it isn’t accurate, because it is. Boston becomes this “walk it up” and direct ISO team late in games. The running and ball movement stop.

It’s more that the ball did move a good amount in this game. Yes, Jayson Tatum took eight shots (making just one) in the fourth quarter. But he’s the Celtics best offensive weapon. He should be shooting late in close games. That said, what’s getting lost somewhat is that Tatum also made five passes that were potential assists. Like this one, to of all people, Marcus Smart:

Smart calling out his teammates Monday night seems to be a classic example of “right place, wrong time”.

11. The Celtics now travel south for a back-to-back road set at the Orlando Magic and Miami Heat on Wednesday and Thursday. Boston is better than Orlando, but the Magic play very hard and just walloped the Timberwolves in a fourth quarter comeback on the road. And the Heat always get up for the Celtics.

Things might get worse before they get better for a group that is floundering to start the season.

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