Ugh. This one hurts. In easily the best performance of this young season, the Celtics fell just short, 95-88. For the first time since 1968, the Boston Celtics start the season 0-4. Despite a solid performance from Jeff Green, the Grizzlies outlasted Boston and spoiled any dreams that Brad Stevens had about getting his first win.
Boston started this game cold, finding themselves down nine early thanks to some sloppy turnovers and poor defense. But then Jeff Green decided to show up. With strong aggressive play, Green found himself getting to the free throw line at will, finishing the first quarter with eleven points, more than he had all game against Detroit. The first quarter ended with Boston showing their trademark resiliency and trailing just three. Jordan Crawford’s unflappable energy was huge for the Celtics tonight as well, as his twelve points came on an efficient night of shooting with just one turnover, exactly what the Celtics are looking for from him. Green played the most minutes of any player tonight and his 22 points represent a season high, helping remind us how he can take over a game on any given night. The most important players in my opinion were Courtney Lee and Jared Sullinger off the bench. The duo combined for 25 points, 8 rebounds, and 3 treys to spark the bench production which was crucial during the 15-0 run that ended the third quarter and gave the Celtics the lead heading into the fourth.
So why weren’t the C’s able to pull away with this one? I point the finger at two players specifically. First, Kelly Olynyk. Now I know that he is the poster boy for the future of the Celtics rebuild and all that, but the man needs some confidence. I lost track of the number of times he caught the ball with space but didn’t pull the trigger. We drafted him with the knowledge that he had a sound shooing aspect of his game… we need that to show up soon. And secondly, I blame Gerald Wallace. I do that a lot. Because I don’t like him very much. Another night of heavy minutes and his stat line shows what?? ANOTHER NIGHT OF ZERO SHOTS. He did show hustle and energy on one play where he stole the ball and started a key fast break. But for ten million dollars and 30 minutes of playing time, you’d think we could get maybe something a little more than one nice play a night! Wallace left the game in the third with an apparent knee injury, which seemed to be minor. Almost at that same time, Boston began their big comeback run… I don’t make this stuff up. Ultimately the Celtics undoing was once again their turnovers, as another 21 matches their season average of terribleness. If I sound gloomy and pessimistic, I apologize. But watching Gerald Wallace for 27 minutes tonight really killed me.
Wallace aside, I must say I was very impressed with tonight’s play and effort. Green seemed to respond well to last game’s fourth quarter benching. If he comes out with the level of intensity that he showed in the first half every night, a win shouldn’t be too far away. But if the Green that disappeared in the last two quarters is the one we get used to seeing, this could be a very long year in Beantown.
Overall I think tonight was a great game. Memphis is a solid franchise and Boston hung in there with promising resiliency. Soon, these moral victories will translate into legitimate victories.