The Boston Celtics had a game Friday night that they would surely soon like to forget after falling 109-105 to the Portland Trail Blazers at home. To add some context, Portland was without superstar guard Damian Lillard, the Trail Blazers have a lowly 18-26 record, and also own the third-worst defense in the league.
But the Celtics didn't take advantage of that, and at one point fell as far behind as 15 points to Portland early in the second quarter. However the most egregious stretch of the game came in the fourth quarter, when the Celtics failed to make a field goal in the final seven minutes of the game to allow Portland to come back and win. The last field goal Boston made came with 7:19 remaining in the fourth quarter, as Payton Pritchard nailed a 3-pointer off an Al Horford assist to increase the C's lead to a nine points.
From that point on, Portland went on an 11-0 run to tie the game at 100 apiece with a minute and a half remaining. Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum combined to make five free throws over the remainder of the game, but a dagger 3-pointer by Robert Covington, and a second-chance hook shot from Jusuf Nurkic ended up being the difference makers.
Boston's scoring drought was just the third time in the last 25 seasons that the Celtics failed to make a field goal over the last seven minutes of the game. The last time that happened was in 2010 against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
After the loss, Boston head coach Ime Udoka said the team felt "disappointed" in their play down the stretch.
"Disappointment, coaching staff as well as players, obviously. We had turned somewhat of a corner lately in fourth quarters…it felt like we took a little step back," Udoka said.
What was even more concerning than the historic shooting drought Boston found itself in, was the ice-cold shooting Tatum is currently in after the loss to the Blazers. Although Tatum finished the game with 27 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists, his 3-point shooting has hit a low point recently. Tatum went 0-for-6 from long range against the Blazers, and to make matters even worse, he's now missed 20-straight 3-point attempts spanning the last four games. In the month of January he's shooting just 26.6 percent from deep, and on the season he's shooting a career-worst 31.7 percent from downtown.
Tatum's final missed 3-pointer of the night against the Blazers would've put Boston up by two points with six seconds left, but the shot looked off as soon as it left his hands:
In fact, that wasn't the only off-target 3-pointer Tatum put up Friday night. His first 3-point attempt was an airball:
He airballed another 3-pointer in the third quarter, once again shooting far over the rim:
Tatum's 3-point shooting has been noticeably off throughout this season, and while he's going to break his current 0-for-20 drought at some point, the Celtics should be somewhat concerned with his dip in efficiency from beyond the arc. This is a guy who has shot above 40 percent from 3-point territory twice in his career (one of which was his rookie campaign), and has become a consistent threat from deep.
Perhaps this could be chalked up to a down year for the two-time All-Star, but his shooting slump this season couldn't come at a worse time for a Celtics team that's struggled with consistency. With the loss to Portland, Boston now falls back to even with a 23-23 record, while sitting ninth in the Eastern Conference. Boston also owns the 23rd-ranked offense in the league, which explains the rough execution down the stretch against the Blazers.
On the bright side, only 3.5 games separates Boston and the No. 6 Philadelphia 76ers, which is where the Celtics would need to get in order to avoid the play-in tournament. The C's also deploy the fifth-ranked defense in the NBA this season, which has typically helped them in tight games this season. However, if Boston doesn't figure out its offense, and if Tatum doesn't start knocking down 3s like we're accustomed to, then the Celtics could find themselves fighting for one of the final postseason spots in the play-in tournament.