Ex-Boston Celtics heart and soul no longer taking blame for clutch-time offense woes

Boston Celtics v Toronto Raptors
Boston Celtics v Toronto Raptors / Cole Burston/GettyImages

MassLive's Brian Robb absolved Marcus Smart of the Boston Celtics' clutch-time woes offensively -- well, more accurately, the C's Smart-less lineup absolved them with their recent razor-thin losses to the Hawks in Atlanta and the reporter merely pointed it out while answering a reader's question -- during his latest Celtics Mailbag.

"Smart certainly got a lot of blame for the team’s late-game woes but it’s evident at this point that the issues in this area go beyond him," Robb wrote. "Boston’s offense this season has obviously improved by leaps and bounds with the upgrade to Kristaps Porzingis and Jrue Holiday from Smart and Brogdon but that hasn’t translated to one possessions games in crunch time. That duo has largely been bystanders as Tatum has settled for isolation sequences with underwhelming success. As we covered earlier, more diverse play calls or simple involvement with more personnel in those spots could go a long way with this group."

While Boston is in the top five in net rating on both sides of the ball, the Cs slip to No. 7 in the standings during the clutch. That may not sound like a big deal, but when the defending champion and presumptive Western Conference favorite Denver Nuggets ranks at No. 1 in the clutch and knocked Boston off in that fashion during both matchups between the teams this season.

Joe Mazzulla's biggest test as Boston Celtics head coach is fixing clutch-time woes

It goes without saying: Joe Mazzulla's legacy will be on the line in the postseason. If he can't draw up actual plays and convince his stars to execute them, he could end up going down as a "close but no cigar" head coach.

With the way this team has gelled, that sounds like an easy task. But anyone involved with competitive sports knows that's easier said than done. Nerves will take over in those moments, and the fortitude of the Association's best will be history's scribe.

None of this, though, absolves Mazzulla from trying to fix what has been a glaring issue for these Celtics.