The shorthanded Celtics once again put up an impressive game on the road against a top-4 team in the East. But in a similar theme, the Celtics weren’t able to close out the win as they lost 118-114 in overtime to the Cavaliers on Monday in Cleveland. Grant Williams’ missed free throws at the end of regulation ultimately hurt the Celtics as they couldn’t finish in overtime.
The Celtics were without three starters as Jayson Tatum, Al Horford and Robert Williams III were all unavailable. On top of that, the C’s played a grueling double overtime loss to the Knicks the night before, so tired legs were understandable. Boston ran out of gas in overtime Monday, losing its third straight game to fall to 45-21.
A road game against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Monday was already rough enough for Boston, which had lost three of its last four games and led by 15 points in both the second and third quarter. The Cavaliers were down by double digits as late as 4:15 left in the fourth, but rallied to tie the game at 109-109 in the final seconds.
The Celtics had the ball with 5.8 seconds remaining after a pair of game-tying free throws from Donovan Mitchell. A missed Payton Pritchard layup landed in the hands of Williams, who was fouled with 0.8 seconds left.
That set up a pair of potential game-winning free throws for Williams, who had been an 86.4% free throw shooter over the last two seasons. It should have been game over for Boston, and Williams knew it, as he very much looked like he was saying “I’m gonna make ’em both” to Mitchell.
In fact, Williams missed both would-be game-winning free throws, sending the game to overtime where the Cavaliers ultimately won. That’s one that will probably stick with Williams for a little bit, but the silver lining in this, if there is one, is that Boston had the game in their grasp despite being down Jayson Tatum, Al Horford and Robert Williams III. While “almost” wins don’t count for anything in the standings, the effort from Malcolm Brogdon off the bench, in which he finished with 24 points, five assists and four rebounds, should be added to his portfolio for Sixth Man of the Year consideration.
On the downside, however, Boston allowed Mitchell to go off for 40 points, a night after letting Immanuel Quickley drop 38 points. While the loss in starters played a huge role in Mitchell getting whatever he wanted, especially at the rim, Boston’s defense as of late has taken a step back. Through the first three months of the season the Celtics had the fifth-best defense in the league. Since Feb. 1 that once stingy defense has fallen to 11th. That’s not enough of a drop off to be overly concerned, but with the playoffs less than six weeks away it is enough of one for Boston to want to ratchet up things on that end of the floor.
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