Toucher & Rich

BOSTON (CBS) — If the Boston Celtics have done anything consistently this season, it has been their uncanny ability to squander leads late in games.

The Celtics dropped their fifth straight on Tuesday night, 109-105 to the Atalanta Hawks, blowing a 23-point halftime lead in the process. Celtics fans shouldn’t be surprised with the outcome, because in just the last month, Boston has blown a 15+ point lead on five different occasions.

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For Celtics play-by-play man Mike Gorman, he hasn’t seen anything like this in his 30 years of calling games.

“You don’t feel secure with leads and you don’t feel confident with leads,” said Gorman. “The convenient excuse or explanation is they stop running in the fourth quarter, and if you look at the numbers the fourth quarter is the slowest of the four quarters (in terms of pace). But their pace in the fourth quarter is still fourth-best in the league, so it’s not like they’re walking the ball up the court.”

But there is much more to Boston’s struggles than just their pace in the fourth quarter.

“They lack a go-to guy and it seems like a lot of guy don’t want the ball late in games, not so much when the game is on the line but when the lead starts to dwindle,” said Gorman. “There are a lot of things about this team that are strange. If I was a big on this team I’d look myself in the mirror because our point guard is the leading rebounder, and that shouldn’t be the case.

“They don’t defend anywhere near as well in the third and fourth quarter as they do in the first and second quarter. They don’t play with the same energy in the second half,” said Gorman.

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While blowing leads to teams like the Cleveland Cavaliers, Chicago Bulls and Portland Trail Blazers may be frustrating, at least those teams are among the best in the league. With the schedule lightening up a bit over the coming weeks, Gorman said we should get a better picture of who these Celtics really are.

“We’ll find a lot about this team this week and tonight when they play Detroit, a team they should beat at home. The Lakers on Friday, they’re a team they should beat at home,” he said. “We’re going to find out where we are on the food chain over the next 7-10 days. I was troubled by the loses, but each of those teams, if I told you the Celtics had a double digit lead on Cleveland, a double digit lead in Chicago, you’d be excited as a Celtics fan. My jury is still out on this team; I want to see them play teams that are perceived to be their equals and see what they do.”

Some are starting to question head coach Brad Stevens and the lack of Boston’s in-game adjustments, but Gorman said those issues rest more on the players.

“I’m sure Brad would be willing to take his share of the blame. But what I always measure a coach on is ‘does a team come ready to play?’ The Celtics, in the first half, have come ready to play. The adjustments in the fourth quarter, yes you can second guess some of Brad’s decisions as a coach, but I think that falls more on the players. This is the NBA, not college where you have 11 eager faces staring at you asking ‘what do I do next coach?’ These are the pros and these guys know what they’re doing out there.

“The Celtics are just not performing in the fourth quarter on either end on the floor. Tommy Heinsohn would say their pace should be the highest in the fourth quarter, and I agree with that in theory, but as [Brian] Scalabrine pointed out last night, their pace in the first half took it out of both teams,” Gorman said of Tuesday’s loss. “It was a track meet up and down the court. It was fun to watch, and the Celtics dropped 42 points in the first quarter and 60 points in the half, but you knew they weren’t going to score 130 points — that’s not who they are.”

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