Remember when we were excited about the Celtics? I do. I also remember when this team was playing well enough that first quarter leads were safe against bad teams. That proved not to be the case tonight in a game that started off fun and then turned into a chore as a pair of basketball teams of middling competence attempted to execute offenses and defenses that you would think them capable of. At the end of an increasingly objectionable basketball game the Celtics were on the short side of a 101-98 score. They were within an ace of extending the misery, but Isaiah couldn’t get a wide open three off in time.
Boston came out looking like they had something to play for and a chip on their shoulders. They went on an early 19-1 run and didn’t let Memphis catch their breath at any point in the first quarter. At the end of twelve, Boston was up on Memphis 34-16 and it didn’t even feel that close.
The second quarter brought lackadaisical execution and David Lee. The Celtics couldn’t build on the lead, and then couldn’t maintain their lead, and then the Grizzlies got as close as 9 before Boston responded and stretched the lead back out to 53-37 at the half on an incredible play drawn up by Stevens. And, frankly, it’s a mistake to talk about these plays like Brad just makes them up on spot and the team goes out and does them. This sequence was one that the Celtics have almost certainly practiced, given how precisely they executed every step of it despite really pretty good defense by Memphis.
The starting five opened the third on a run and an Amir Johnson three pushed the lead up to 21 before the Grizzlies managed to string together a basket and a stop, much less a scoring run–and then the Grizzlies went on an 18-2 run and got the Celtics lead down to 5 before the Celtics responded and built the lead back up to eleven with a bit less than three to go. Memphis got three of those points back before the quarter ended, Boston up 76-68. Boston might’ve been able to end the period with a ten point lead, if not for a truly face-palming David Lee to Evan Turner to camera guy fast break flub.
Boston’s bench crew started the fourth quarter off, and didn’t do much, and at first Memphis didn’t do much either, but then Memphis got hot and Boston stayed David-Lee-level ice cold, and the Grizzlies took the lead with under 4 to go. They mostly held the lead after that and eventually won the game more or less by default. And, I have to tell you, both of these teams looked awful. It was a close game, and the Memphis crowd made it sound like an exciting game, but make no mistake, this was an ugly ending to an ugly game played by teams that have played below expectations for the whole season (Memphis) and the past month (Boston).
The first quarter.
Testimony to the Celtics current funk is that this quarter, in which they played about how we expected them to play in November and the first part of December, is worthy of special notice right now.
And you know what? I’m not a guy who likes to pile on guys. I don’t like taking potshots at individuals in a team game, but here’s the deal: David Lee made his minutes an issue as recently as last week. He complained, to the press, and when given an opportunity today, he looked terrible. He played terrible. He was a double-digit-net-negative for Boston.
That’s how you close out a half https://t.co/zK5wCrLz20
— John Karalis (@RedsArmy_John) January 11, 2016
If Brad Stevens was giving Lee an opportunity to play his way back into the rotation, Lee didn’t exactly make the best of it. He was -12 on 2-12 shooting.