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Ime Udoka Calls Out Celtics' Lack Of Mental Toughness After Blowing Huge Lead To Knicks

BOSTON (CBS) -- Misery loves company. And when it comes to miserable losses by the Boston Celtics, there are plenty to choose from.

Boston blew yet another game on Thursday night, this time to the Knicks in New York. The Celtics held a 25-point lead in the second quarter and were up by 20 in the third before they let the Knicks fight back over and over again. They survived New York's first run back, but instead of delivering a knockout punch, the C's let the Knickerbockers keep chipping away.

New York didn't take its first lead until there was 2:07 left in the game, going up 99-98 on an Evan Fournier three. Fournier has been torching his former team this season, and he exploded for a career-high 41 points on Thursday night. Somehow, Boston defenders kept losing him despite his hot hand.

Fournier averaged 13 points over his 16 games for Boston last season, a number he hit in the fourth quarter alone on Thursday night.

A Jayson Tatum three-point play put Boston back up 101-99 with 1:46 left, but the Knicks scored the next five points to go up by three with 18.7 seconds to go. Tatum hit a nice stepback with 2.2 seconds left to knot things up at 105-105, but that's when the Knicks delivered another devastating gut-punch to the 2021-22 Celtics.

R.J. Barrett banked in a miraculous 25-footer from the buzzer to give the Knicks the 108-105 win, and send the Celtics to another calamitous defeat. It marks the fourth time this season that the Celtics have let an opponent come back from at least 19 points and win the game.

Head coach Ime Udoka probably sounds like a broken record in the locker room when addressing the matter of blown leads. His post-game chat with the team didn't center on giving up the game-winning three, but everything that led up to it.

And he had some rather biting remarks about his Celtics when chatting with reporters after the defeat.

"I think it's a lack of mental toughness to fight through those adverse times," said Udoka. "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."

It feels like whenever one thing doesn't go Boston's way, everything goes downhill. Even the littlest thing snowballs into a full-blown disaster.

"Like Coach said, we get rattled when we're facing adversity," said big man Robert Williams. "But it's on us to look in the mirror and get that together."

Udoka is begging for some veteran leadership on the floor, for anyone to step up and calm things down when things are not going Boston's way.

"A calming presence to slow it down and get us what we want is really what you need at that point," he said. "And sometimes we all get caught up in it."

"I don't know. We've just got to be better," said Tatum, who led the way for Boston with an incredible 36-point, nine-assist effort. "It's not like we're making an active effort to lose these leads. We want to win, things like that. Everyone down the line just has to be better."

The Celtics are now 18-21 on the season and outside of the playoff picture. They're not even in the play-in round after losing five of their last seven.

They'll have a chance for some revenge on Saturday night when the C's host the Knicks in Boston.

"Funny enough, our next opponent is them, at home," Tatum said. "What better way to respond than playing a team you just lost to and gave up a lead in two days?"

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