There is plenty of blame to go around for an ugly Celtics’ loss to the Hornets on Monday night. Jrue Holiday missed a pair of potentially game-clinching free throws in the final minute of regulation. Jayson Tatum missed a free throw with a chance to tie the game at the end of overtime. Joe Mazzulla watched the Hornets go on a 9-0 run at the end of regulation without calling a timeout.
Tired legs were clearly at play here as well for Boston’s third game in four days at the end of a lengthy road trip while down two rotation players. However, when dissecting the ugliness of Boston’s loss, the process almost matters more than the results on a night like this. The Celtics showed off some of their demons from years past, blowing a nine-point lead in the final two minutes of regulation against the worst defensive team in the NBA. When it mattered most, Boston couldn’t score and that cost them a chance to close out the game and seventh straight win.
While Holiday and Tatum both had their issues with missed free throws and layups in key spots, a more troublesome performance came from Jaylen Brown during key moments in the loss. The All-Star went just 5-of-17 on the night and misfired on 11 of his final 13 shot attempts, including a combined 1-of-6 in the fourth quarter and overtime.
Outside of a hot first quarter, Brown was bad against the Hornets while also dealing with foul trouble in the second half. Despite being off with his shot, Brown seemed intent on trying to take down the Hornets’ defense himself rather than take advantage of the imposing supporting cast around him.
A year ago, the Celtics probably wanted Brown taking a lot of those shots in big moments when teams doubled Tatum. Now? There are easy swing passes to be made to the likes of Kristaps Porzingis or Jrue Holiday. On Monday night, there was plenty of tunnel vision from Brown on that front, none more egregious than when he took a contested 3 in overtime with 35 seconds left in a tie game rather than passing the ball to an open Porzingis in the paint.
Those are the types of plays that will likely cause Joe Mazzulla to lose some sleep when watching the film, rather than the missed free throws or blown layups. Against a bad defense like the Hornets, the Celtics making the simple play or pass will lead to points more often than not. Reverting back to isolation tendencies is a roll of the dice that simply isn’t necessary anymore against most opponents with this level of talent.
Brown went 2-of-9 in the second half against Charlotte, with four of those attempts coming on midrange jump shots. On a night when Boston had a 98 percent probability chance to win the game with two minutes remaining in regulation, Brown’s isolation mentality loomed large. The sooner Brown quits trying to do too much for the Celtics offensively in these moments, the better off they will be.