WALTHAM — After blowing a 22-point third-quarter lead and allowing the Milwaukee Bucks to score 55 points in the final 19 minutes of a 105-98 loss, the Celtics took late Friday night and Saturday morning to reflect and then spent the afternoon working on ways to prevent such a collapse in the future.
The Celtics begin a two-game road trip Sunday in Auburn Hills, Mich., against the Pistons, one of the more improved teams in the league, and then play Monday at Memphis, which advanced to the Western Conference finals last season. So there is little time to adjust.
What was apparent in the fourth quarter Friday night was the Celtics’ offensive confusion. They were 4 for 19 shooting in the quarter, with their leading scorer in that time Vitor Faverani with 4 points. The combination of Brandon Bass and Jeff Green went 0 for 9 for 4 points.
The Celtics appeared unsure who should shoot the ball, and when, during the critical late possessions. They did not record a field goal in the final 3:19, leaving open the question as to whether this retooled bunch needs a primary scoring threat down the stretch.
“I think that’s a really fair question and it could change game to game,” coach Brad 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 the go-to guy every single night because I think numerous guys could make that shot. But it takes a special group to wrap your arms around that and usually it doesn’t happen in the first month of the season, usually it happens over time. It is usually a case of matchups and it’s usually a case of guys coming together and really, really [deciding] we’ve got to get our best look and if our best look is our third option, we trust he’ll knock it down.”
When the Celtics decided to rebuild, management fully understood the consequences of using new players in new roles. Green led the Celtics with 25 points in their season-opening loss to the Toronto Raptors. He attempted five shots in the final quarter Friday night and got to the free throw line four times.
Before he launched a 3-pointer at the buzzer from more than 50 feet away, Green’s previous field goal attempt was a missed layup at the 4:15 mark.
“Ask Coach,” Green said about being the go-to guy down the stretch. “He’s the one who draws the plays. If he tells me to get the ball, I’ll go get it. It’s not challenging, I look at it as a blessing to have multiple guys who can make plays.”
Swingman Gerald Wallace, who attempted three 3-pointers in the final period and committed a key turnover down the stretch, accused his teammates of playing for stats in the final 19 minutes, allowing the game to slip away.
“We’re only two games in, things happen, luckily it happens at the start of the season,” Wallace said. “We can build from it, learn from it, and move on. I don’t think [Milwaukee] did anything to take us out of our game. We took ourselves out of the game. We got staggered. We held the ball. We played more individually than the other team.”
The Celtics yielded 62.5 percent shooting in the fourth quarter.
“When we get staggered on offense, we relax on defense,” Wallace said. “We didn’t pressure. We didn’t take them out of anything. They got more physical than we did. They got tougher than we did. Basically, they wanted the game more than we did.”
Wallace admitted that was difficult to say.
“Yeah, especially us, we’ve got a lot to prove,” he said. “Nobody is expecting us to do anything. So we should always be walking around with two chips on our shoulder and go out every night and trying to prove it. And instead of being happy and settling for a 20-point lead, we should have tried to push it to a 40-point lead, try to make a statement for us as a team.”
Avery Bradley picked up his fourth foul with 5:12 left in the third quarter Friday night and was limited to 15 second-half minutes. Without a true point guard, Stevens used Wallace as the point forward instead of perhaps playing rookie Phil Pressey, the team’s lone legitimate point guard. “We’ve done that a little bit in practice and a little bit in games,” Stevens said. “I trust Gerald. I think Gerald is one of our better passers. I think he really understands the position.” . . . Kris Humphries scored 8 points with 9 rebounds and 2 blocked shots in 21 minutes in the opener but did not play Friday night despite veteran Zaza Pachulia dominating the paint for the Bucks in the second half. “I told Kris this morning, his not playing was not a result of his play on Wednesday,” Stevens said. “I kind of made up my mind I was going to go to Jared [Sullinger] early. I thought that rotation of four bigs [Friday night] was pretty good overall. Pachulia did have his way, but Vitor is our best interior defender, probably because of his length. He can really protect the rim. Bass has been there in big moments and Jared’s been here in big moments. Hindsight’s 20-20, but I don’t necessarily think I would have taken one of those guys out.”