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Three Ways Celtics Have Flirted With Panic Button During Road Trip

The Boston Celtics presented their latest reason for concern, losing to the Utah Jazz on Saturday night in what could’ve easily resulted in a third consecutive victory.

However, the Celtics instead fell flat in the moments that held the most weight and stooped to yet another low against lackluster completion for the third time in their six-game road trip.

This now leaves Boston hovering around the panic button, despite whatever liberties could be granted to a team that — after Saturday’s loss — sits third in the Eastern Conference and needed the Chicago Bulls to help them secure a playoff spot.

With that being said, here are three ways the Celtics have presented crucial areas of concern throughout their two-week road trip, following a loss to the 11th-seeded Jazz:

Jayson Tatum’s slump continuously harms the Celtics
As soon as Tatum left Salt Lake City after dropping 55 points and notching MVP honors at the All-star Game, he’s struggled on a night-to-night instance in leading the C’s. This dilemma has grown more and more noticeable with Boston enduring several ugly losses in uncharacteristic fashion since the break.

Granted, hat’s off to the Jazz and Will Hardy for effectively double-teaming Tatum throughout the night. That move deserved a chef’s kiss with how perfectly it was executed. Tatum was held to just 15 points and even went scoreless in the third and fourth quarters. Yet, to fail in the one moment that could’ve rewritten the night was a tough watch.

As Grant Williams kept hopes of a win intact with his seven 3-pointers, Tatum was positioned to deliver the equalizing as he brought the ball up the floor, following his missed fadeaway shot in the offensive possession prior. And with Boston down just a point, Tatum crumbled, missing a possible go-ahead pull-up 3-pointer from 29 feet out, but still had the unwavering support of head coach Joe Mazzulla afterward.

“I would want no better shot than Jayson Tatum shooting an off-the-dribble wide-open three,” Mazzulla told reporters, as seen on NBC Sports Boston’s postgame coverage. “I’ll take that shot 100 times a game. … I just wanted to get a great shot.”

Meanwhile, Tatum finished the night 0-for-3 in the fourth quarter and just 3-of-8 from beyond the arc.

Boston’s ability to overcome Robert Williams’ absence
While connecting on 22 3-point attempts should secure a win in a perfect world, we don’t live in one and neither do the Celtics.

No matter how well the Celtics can knock down outside shots, or take questionable attempts with Mazzulla’s support from the postgame podium, failing to secure rebounds will always prove costly. And that was once again the case for Boston. The Celtics allowed 17 offensive rebounds, which marked a season-high, while only grabbing five of their own. They were also miserably outscored in the second chance points category, 23-8.

Mazzulla attempted to counter the absences of Williams and Al Horford, who was sidelined with low back stiffness before tipoff, by utilizing Mike Muscala and Luke Kornet alongside each other. And while there weren’t many options at that point, this only spoke greater volumes regarding how lost the Celtics are at securing rebounds without Williams.

This adds a pressure element to the 25-year-old with just 11 games left before playoff time arrives. And last year we saw what playing Williams through an injury could likely result in, opening this campaign sidelined for the first 29 games.

Maintaining crucial leads
This issue, like Tatum’s sticky slump, seems to be stuck with the Celtics until they chose to prove otherwise.

The C’s were haunted yet again. They held a 19-point lead in the second quarter but couldn’t build on it. Instead, the Jazz were rewarded on various occasions for their missed shot attempts — many of which Boston contested — and granted second-chance opportunities, which they wisely capitalized on.

And while this could easily be attributed to Boston’s gross inability to secure rebounds on both ends of the floor at an efficient rate, blowing late-game chances certainly doesn’t help either. The Celtics were presented with numerous spark-generating or game-seizing shots, whether it’d be against the Jazz, Houston Rockets or during their bailout win over the Minnesota Timberwolves.

With just over a week’s left worth of games before the playoff train arrives, the Celtics are working with a deadline. Entering the playoffs with momentum is key and so far the Milwaukee Bucks have done their part at posing a convincing threat in the East.

Can the Celtics counter?

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