The Boston Celtics‘ 108-105 loss to the New York Knicks on Thursday night was just the latest in a season overcome with heartbreakers. Owning a 25-point lead with under four minutes remaining in the second quarter, the Cs went on to be outscored by 18 points in the second half. RJ Barrett ultimately sealed New York’s comeback at the end of regulation, banking in a 3-point buzzer-beater over the outstretched arms of Jayson Tatum.
For the Knicks, the game marked the franchise’s largest comeback since 2004 and allowed them to take a one-game lead over Boston in the conference. As for the Celtics, the defeat marked their 11th loss of the year in games decided by five points or fewer. Following the game, head coach Ime Udoka held no qualms about his frustration, calling out his team on multiple occasions.

“I think it’s a lack of mental toughness to fight through those adverse times,” Udoka told reporters following game, via ESPN. “To your point, it’s across the board. It’s a turnover here, a bad shot here, a missed defensive assignment here, and several missed rebounds tonight. So it’s a lot of different things. And then, like I said, a calming presence to slow it down and get us what we want is really what you need at that point. And sometimes we all get caught up in it.”

Udoka: ‘It’s Not an Open Gym’

With Boston’s loss at Madison Square Garden, Udoka’s rocky first season at the helm in Beantown continued, as the Celtics currently own the fifth-worst record in the East. Not ideal for a team who, with two of the league’s most talented players at their disposal, entered the season with hopes of establishing themselves as legitimate contenders. Unfortunately, more times than not, mental breakdowns and faulty execution have plagued Boston’s hopes of escaping mediocrity.

“It’s guys getting rattled when it’s not the end of the world,” Udoka said in regards to how his team can close out games better. “You still have a 12-point, comfortable lead, and you gotta end that run. We have to understand time and score, and we need a solid shot and not just get caught up in the game. You have to play the game different in the first quarter than the fourth quarter. Different when the team is going on the run and when you’re getting stops and getting out running. It’s not open gym. You can’t just play the same way the whole game. So we have to have better understanding of that and get the quality of shot that we want to stop a run and not just get caught up in it and four, five guys make the wrong play and it starts to snowball.”