One of the areas where Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens yearned to see progress over the final games of the 2013-14 season was execution in late-game situations. Boston has really struggled to make plays, particularly on the offensive end, at the end of close games.
Despite winning consecutive games entering Monday's tilt in Philadelphia, Boston failed to show progress in that regard while dropping a 113-108 decision at Wells Fargo Center. Stevens might want to avoid the final 88 seconds of the game film: Boston committed four turnovers -- each one more head-shaking than the last -- to help Philadelphia post its third win of the season over the Celtics.
A glance at the miscues:
• With 1:28 to go in a one-possession game, rookie Kelly Olynyk, who has been one of the primary bright spots of this late-season stretch, threw a poor bounce pass to Jeff Green on the blocks, and it was picked by Michael Carter-Williams. Making matters worse, Olynyk got whistled for a blocking foul at the other end trying to take a charge from Tony Wroten in transition (and the call stood even after a lengthy video review).
• With Boston now down five, Rajon Rondo tried to attack the basket early on the ensuing possession, but left his feet to shoot, then decided otherwise with Carter-Williams contesting. Rondo tried to pass to the right wing, but there wasn't a green jersey within 20 feet of the ball and it bounced once before hitting a fan sitting next to the scorer's table.
• Still down five with 25 seconds to go, the Celtics called a timeout to draw up a play. The 76ers smothered Boston's players and Jeff Green had nowhere to inbound the ball, leading to a five-second violation.
• Despite all the miscues, Boston somehow got back within three and the 76ers threw the ball away on an inbounds play with 15 seconds to go, giving the Celtics one last gasp. The Celtics struggled to generate a quality 3-point look and, with about two seconds to go and desperate to get a shot off, Rondo handed off to Chris Johnson beyond the 3-point arc. Johnson elevated and actually made the 3-pointer, but not before a referee nearby whistled the play dead with 0.9 seconds to go because Johnson stepped on the sideline before his shot.
Boston had its chances, but execution hurt the team in crunch time. Stevens pointed out after the game that the Celtics probably let things get away in the first half when they gave back an early 10-point lead and watched the 76ers open a 17-point halftime advantage.
A couple more postgame thoughts from Monday's loss:
• ANOTHER CAREER NIGHT FOR OLYNYK: Two nights after matching his career high for scoring, Olynyk bested his mark by scoring a team-high 28 points on 10-of-19 shooting with nine rebounds and three assists over 35 minutes. Olynyk continues to show a developing touch around the basket, finding opportunities while rolling off pick-and-rolls or attacking the basket in transition. Olynyk hasn't been bashful about drawing contact lately and finished with either hand early against Philadelphia. Of his 10 makes on Monday, six came at the rim, while he also got to the charity stripe for a team-high seven attempts. Olynyk's progress remains maybe the most encouraging aspect of Boston's late-season exploits.
• LOOSE BALLS: GOOD GREEN: Jeff Green quietly put up 27 points in one of his better outings. Green produced eight of his 10 makes near the basket and took only 16 shots overall. Add in three steals and two blocks and only one turnover, and this is exactly the sort of efficiency the team needs from Green. ... Avery Bradley scored 23 points, but he needed 22 shots to get there. Bradley missed nine triples (2-of-11 beyond the 3-point arc). ... Rondo scored his eighth point less than three minutes into the second half, but didn't score again, preventing him from a triple-double (14 assists, 11 rebounds). Rondo took only eight shots but was 1-for-5 after the intermission. Hard to complain with his impact when he handed out seven assists and grabbed seven rebounds and was plus-18 in the final two quarters.