WALTHAM, Mass. -- Already disheveled after watching the visiting Milwaukee Bucks roar back from a 22-point deficit, the Boston Celtics found themselves down five with 15.1 seconds to play in Friday's home opener. Coming out of a timeout, Boston needed a quick 3-point look to have even a chance to come from behind. But it took the team nine seconds before Courtney Lee launched an off-target triple from the left wing, sealing their fate in a 105-98 loss.
That sequence was simply a slice of a discombobulated second half in which the Celtics stopped sharing the ball and went stagnant on offense, all while allowing Milwaukee to put up 55 points over the final 17 minutes. The Celtics desperately needed someone -- anyone -- to step up in the fourth quarter to stop the bleeding, but no one did.
"It’s one of the things that separates great players," Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. "[Celtics president of basketball operations] Danny [Ainge] was talking about it this morning. A guy like [Larry] Bird, as many big shots as people talk about guys like that hitting in situations to win games, the shots they hit to stop runs were just as big. The willingness to step up and make that shot in that moment is a huge moment."
The question posed to Stevens and his Celtics players Saturday was whether Boston is in need of that sort of go-to guy, whether it be for a late-game 3-pointer, or just someone who can take the ball and stop an opponent's run.
"I think it could change game to game," Stevens said. "That’s part of who we are and that’s OK. I don’t think that we would be able to say, 'This person is going to be the go-to guy every single night.' Because I think numerous guys can make that shot. But it takes a special group to wrap their arms around that and get there. Usually it doesn’t happen in the first month of the season. Usually it happens over time. Usually, it’s a case of matchups. And then it’s usually a case of guys coming together and really deciding that we've got to get our best look, and if our best look is our third option, we trust he’ll knock it down."
The Celtics never got to a third option in the second half of Friday's game, the ball sticking early in the offense. The team generated just two assists on seven second-half field goals.
Jeff Green, who was 0-for-7 in the second half, is the de facto go-to guy on offense with Rajon Rondo rehabbing from ACL surgery. He maintained that having multiple options in those situations is better for Boston.
"I look at it as a blessing that we have multiple guys that can make plays, not just one guy," Green said. "If we had one guy to focus on, one focal point, now we have multiple guys that can make plays and who can do good things out there on the floor to help us win. It’s hard to pinpoint who is going to make the plays. I look at it as a blessing."
Echoed Gerald Wallace, "We don’t have one, but we don’t necessarily need one. I’ve never liked teams that have go-to guys because to me they are easy to guard. You just load up on them. My main thing is, if you can execute your offense, get what you want out of your offense, then that’s your go-to play. Every go-to guy has a play to get him where he wants to be. You just have to put a guy in that position to make a shot."