The Celtics  watched a 22-point lead dwindle to two in the final minute, but coach Brad Stevens  breathed a sigh of relief when his defense held the fort against the Cavaliers’ charge  on the final two possessions.
“We did a really good job and played exceptionally well in the fourth quarter — for 18.3 seconds,” joked Stevens.
Brandon Bass  blocked Dion Waiters with 8.9 seconds remaining and Earl Clark‘s last-second 3-point attempt missed the mark, so the Celtics  avoided blowing a double-digit lead for the third time in three games.
“Sometimes you get on your heels, and we’ve got to figure out a way to not be on our heels,” added Stevens. “And I think sometimes when you win a game like this, that helps you the next time. Obviously, there’s that tension of, ‘Oh, no, don’t lose,’ and that’s no way to live life, that’s no way to play, but it’s a factor.”
After Bradley’s put-back dunk gave the Celtics  a 94-84 lead, Stevens’ charges made just one field goal in the game’s final 6:36 — a spinning, off-balance Jordan Crawford runner amid a flurry of turnovers and failed 3’s.
“I was telling [Celtics president] Rich Gotham, it should have been promoted as part of our holiday package: Every game is an adventure. ‘Green runs deep #EveryGameIsAnAdventure,'” said Stevens, gifting the C’s pro shop a t-shirt idea. “That would be a great thing to promote. Maybe we can work on that — get that on the website.
“It was an adventure, and we’ve got to get better in those situations. Again, we have been for the majority of the time, but for whatever reason in the last two weeks we haven’t. Today, I just didn’t think we played purposefully when it mattered. You have to balance this idea of playing with extreme maturity with still playing clear and loose.”
The absence of Rajon Rondo  is never more glaring than in their late-game execution , but despite a three-game losing streak that snapped Saturday, the C’s remain a half-game behind the Raptors for first place in the division.
“Hopefully people come in and say, ‘Hey, we can get down,’ but I think we’ve made the last couple weeks an adventure, and we haven’t played the right way the whole game,” said Stevens. “And whether that’s in the first half or the fourth quarter, we have to become a better team for 48 minutes. Three times we’ve not played well in the second half, but once we didn’t play well the whole game. So, we’ve got a lot of minutes we’ve got get better at.”
So it goes for these Rondo-less C’s. Improve every minute, every game; stem the tide until their fearless returns.