BOSTON True to form, the Boston Celtics maintained their lopsided-playing ways with a 93-83 loss to Memphis.
It was Boston's 12th double-digit loss this season out of 17 defeats, reinforcing Doc Rivers' greatest fears about his team.
When they lose, they don't just lose: they get blown out.
"It's amazing, the difference for us when we win and lose games," Rivers said recently. "The numbers are startling. That's what we have to improve."
In their 14 wins, the C's have won by an average of 9.1 points per game. In the 16 losses prior to Wednesday's game, Boston was getting beat by an average of 12.2 points per game.
Here are some of the keys identified prior to tonight's game that in some fashion played a role in the C's suffering yet another decisive defeat.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Memphis has one of the best 1-2 frontcourt punches with Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol. Their ability to control the action inside the paint is at the heart of why Memphis ranks among the NBA leaders in points in the paint (43.7, 7th) and rebounds (52.5, 8th) per game.
WHAT WE SAW: The Randolph-Gasol tandem was far from spectacular for the Grizzlies. The duo combined for 11 points on 4-for-15 shooting to go with 15 rebounds.
MATCHUP TO WATCH: Kevin Garnett vs Zach Randolph: Although Garnett's production as dipped since moving to power forward, the C's remain convinced that this will benefit him and the Celtics over the long haul. Randolph remains one of the more under-rated talents in the NBA, averaging 17 points and 12.5 rebounds per game this season.
WHAT WE SAW: Garnett did a better-than-average job defensively on Randolph, but it clearly had an impact on his scoring as Garnett had 12 points on 5-for-14 shooting along with seven rebounds. Randolph had six points on 3-for-8 shooting to go with eight rebounds.
"I have to balance it out between being more offensively minded and being defensively minded," Garnett said. "I'm playing against one of the best forwards in the world, and that being Zach. I have a lot of respect for him. I knew it was going to be a bear fight; just getting ready for that matchup. I never once really balanced it out as far as being offensive minded so I have to do a better job with that."
PLAYER TO WATCH: Easily it will be Avery Bradley. His long-awaited return should provide a boost of energy -- or at the very least, better play defensively -- that the Celtics are in desperate need right now.
WHAT WE SAW: His defense was decent, but not exceptional by anyone's standards. He made a couple of baskets on cuts to the basket, which was what got him going offensively last season. He's definitely a work in progress, but certainly showed signs of eventually working his way into delivering the kind of high impact play both he and the Celtics expect from him defensively. He finished with four points in 19 minutes.
"He's a big addition to what we do," Garnett said. Said Paul Pierce, "It's good to really see him out there tonight."
STAT TO TRACK: Scoring will indeed be at a premium for the Celtics against a stingy Grizzlies defense that's giving up an NBA-low 90 points per game. Boston has failed to score 90 or more points in two of their last three games.
WHAT WE SAW: Boston was getting its share of points, but there was one problem. Their defense was giving up even more. After shooting better than 60 percent in the first half and better than 50 percent most of the second, Memphis was having one of its better games offensively as they fended off a late Celtics surge to get the win.
"Percentage-wise we played good defense in the second half," said C's coach Doc Rivers. "We just couldn't score."
WALTHAM -- From one media station to the next, Al Horford effortlessly moved about during Boston Celtics Media Day.
In between stations, I jokingly asked the nine-year veteran, "Been through a few of these before?"
"A couple," he quipped.
But Monday was different. And every other Monday going forward this season will be different, too, for the longtime Atlanta Hawks forward, who is now a member of the Boston Celtics after they signed him to a four-year, $113 million contract this summer.
With that significant increase in salary comes -- from those outside the Celtics program at least -- a higher level of expectations.
"We’re not asking Al to be anything more than him," said coach Brad Stevens. "He’s a good fit for how we play on offense. He’s a good fit for how we play on defense. He’s a professional. He has a routine. He works hard at his craft. He’s a guy that guys can follow by example."
However, Horford joins a Celtics team that -- since the rebuild began in 2013 -- has yet to win 50 games in a single season or get past the first round of the playoffs.
And while it will certainly be a collective team effort for Boston to achieve those goals, make no mistake about it: Horford is expected to be the man leading the way.
"We need to start building good habits from Day One," Horford said.
Danny Ainge, Boston’s president of basketball operations, is a big fan of Horford’s character and versatility, which has been on display throughout his career.
"As much as anything he’s been very consistent over his career," Ainge said. "Shooting the ball, playing multiple positions. He’s a guy that fits in with our system with big guys handling the ball a lot."
Horford’s new teammate echoed similar sentiments about the four-time All-Star.
And when you listen to his new Celtics teammates talk about him and what he’ll bring to a roster that’s loaded with returnees, there are a couple of common themes that seem to develop.
"He brings leadership; hard work," said Avery Bradley.
Bradley had a chance to spend some time around Jeff Teague, one of Horford’s former teammates in Atlanta.
"He just told me I’m really going to enjoy having him on this team," Bradley said. "He’s going to open the floor for everybody. He’s a great player on the offensive end, defensive end. He knows how to play the game of basketball. To have him be a part of this team, I’m just happy about it."
So is Amir Johnson, who will likely start with Horford in the frontcourt for Boston.
Last season, Johnson was Boston’s primary rim-protecting big man. With the addition of Horford, Johnson won’t be relied on as heavily to be Boston’s last line of defense, which makes his life easier and, more importantly, makes the Celtics a better team defensively.
"[Horford] has so many skills he can contribute to the game," Johnson said. "He can run the floor, block shots, shoot the 3-ball, which is big now. He can do it all. It’ll be a big piece to carry us over the top. We just have to put it all together."
BRIGHTON -- The Bruins aren’t going to have anything resembling an All-Star lineup when they take the ice against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Monday night at TD Garden for their preseason opener. But they'll take a long, lingering look at their future with a game-night roster full of prospects and young players who still get butterflies at the thought of putting on an NHL sweater for an Original Six club.
Jake DeBrusk, Danton Heinen, Jakub Zboril, Robbie O’Gara, Peter Cehlarik and Brandon Carlo are among the top B’s youngsters that will be in the lineup, and will be cranking up the energy prior to puck drop against the Blue Jackets.
“Everybody is really excited. I woke up this morning with a big smile on my face knowing that I get to put the B’s jersey on and get to go out [on the ice] at TD Garden,” said Brandon Carlo, who will be paired with John-Michael Liles as he has been throughout the start of training camp. “I probably won’t have much of a nap today because I’m so amped up.
“I feel like I’m moving my feet out there, and I want to show that I’ve gotten better at things I worked on over the summer like moving the puck. I definitely want to show a little bit of physicality out there as well.”
The young players are the ones who also provide the most unknown variable for the coaching staff at this point. So the first preseason game is largely about how those hopefuls respond to faster, more physical and intense competition.
“You’re looking to see effort and energy tonight. If the effort and energy is there everything else will take care of itself,” said assistant coach Joe Sacco. “You don’t really want them to think too much out there tonight. This is a game where players are trying to showcase their talent, and we want them to do that.”
Sacco said Anton Khudobin will play the first two periods and Zane McIntyre will wrap things up. Here are the line combos and D-pairings expected to take the ice against the Blue Jackets: