Celtics' hot starts becoming the norm

Celtics' hot starts becoming the norm
December 8, 2013, 7:45 pm
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For a good chunk of this season, the first quarter has been one the Boston Celtics would just as soon forget.

Not anymore.

The Celtics are riding a three-game winning streak, with the last two wins being fueled by dominant starts that paved the way to victory.

Boston (10-12) has outscored its last two opponents, 83-26, in the first quarter. According to ESPN, the Celtics are the first team since 1965 to outscore opponents in the first quarter by at least 23 points in consecutive games.

And the Atlantic Division-leading Celtics are not wasting any time in putting teams in catchup-mode, either.

On Friday against Denver, Boston opened the game with a 14-0 run.

And Sunday's 113-73 blowout of the Knicks began with a 12-0 spurt from the opening tip-off.

"We were aggressive on the ball," said Boston's Jeff Green. "We forced them to play on their heels."

And that set into motion an early knockout of a team that had come with back-to-back wins by an average of 34 points per game.

"We've gotten better; we still got a long way to go," said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens.

He was referring to the team's overall play, but he could have been talking about the team's play in the first quarter as well.

While the Celtics limited the Knicks to 22 percent shooting (4-for-18), Boston players acknowledged that some of those shots were the kind that the Knicks have been making lately.

That said, there was no mistaking the Celtics' defense at the start of the game was playing at a level that made the most common shots challenging.

"At the beginning of the season, first quarter was one of our most horrible quarters of the game," said Gerald Wallace. "We found ourselves trying to fight back in the game the last three quarters. Now we've made that turn to where the first quarter is one of our best quarters."

And while winning the first quarter doesn't guarantee anything other than a good start to the game, Boston is using it more and more as a springboard to what's truly important - winning games.

"We're making shots, being aggressive and executing our plays," said Jeff Green in surmising Boston's strong starts recently. "Simple as that."