In a thrilling back-and-forth battle between the Celtics and the Pelicans, the game was decided late on clutch free throws. Both teams had a chance to win the game, but the Pelicans outlasted the Celtics, winning 106-105. Even with Isiah Thomas looking to make himself heard in the MVP race with 37 points, the Celtics couldn't manage a much-needed road win. So, what were some keys that helped seal the fate of the C's?

3-pointers

The Celtics are not considered a great 3-point shooting team but can get by when they need to. Tonight, however, it looked as if the Celtics lived and died by the 3, going 10 for 30 from downtown before the 1st half even ended.

That's 33%, but the night only got worse from beyond the arc. The Celtics eventually settled down a bit but ended the night shooting 12 for 41 from the 3-point arc. While obviously a negative, some clutch 3-pointers late in the game helped get the Celtics back into the mix, having been down 51-56 at halftime. However, the Celtics shouldn't pretend to be the Warriors when it comes to 3-pointers.

Bench comparisons

The Pelicans' bench scored a massive 57 points compared to the Celtics' bench with a mediocre 20. It's simply too difficult to win games in the NBA when giving up that kind of production from the secondary unit.

Late free throws and offensive rebounds

The Celtics are struggling with rebounding early this season, and signs aren't looking any better.

When Brad Stevens wants to play small-ball with 5'9" Isiah Thomas, then he has to deal with the rebound disadvantage. The C's actually looked better improved on the boards heading into the 4th quarter, but late mistakes gave the Pelicans too many opportunities to score. These scoring opportunities led to free-throw conversions and inevitably, the win.

With all these negative points, why did the Celtics only lose by 1 point tonight after a recent road loss blowout? Well, that's been the Celtics' modus operandi so far this season. They are finding themselves behind early in games after droughts on offense and sloppy defense, and yet, the Celtics are always within striking range to steal a win, no matter how undeserving.

That stands as a testament to the willpower of the Stevens-Thomas duo. When this coach and player are in sync, beautiful basketball happens. The Celtics need to focus on their own brand of basketball and stop chucking up 3's.

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