BOSTON — Lately, the start of games has been the start of the Boston Celtics downfall with Wednesday's first quarter fizzle setting the tone for their 100-93 loss to Memphis.
As much as folks will try and focus on the comeback, it wouldn't have been necessary if they were a more competitive bunch at the start of the game, which saw the Celtics trail by as many as 14 in the first quarter.
Celtics coach Brad Stevens won't hesitate in acknowledging that there were a number of things Boston could have done better against Memphis.
He knows why the Celtics' two-game winning streak is over.
"The difference in the game was the first quarter," Stevens said. "Even when we were down 15 with three minutes to go, that was the difference in the game."
Said Avery Bradley: "We just didn't come out with the energy that we needed to come out to, and they got a lead."
A lead that they did not relinquish all night, proving just how valuable getting off to a solid start can be for a team's chances at winning.
"We've had our games where we started out hot and we have our games where we start out cold," said Jeff Green. "We just gotta find a way to bring it, start off aggressive in the first quarter of each game."
And with that, here's the Good, the Bad and the Ugly from Boston's loss on Wednesday, which ended a two-game losing streak.
He put on the kind of fourth -uarter scoring display that the Celtics absolutely had to have just to make the game competitive. He finished with 23 points and 12 rebounds which included 17 points in the fourth quarter. The most notable part of Sullinger's strong fourth quarter was him nailing a pair of 3-pointers in the final 1:43.
Often criticized for his late-game scoring, or rather lack of scoring, Green was very much present and accountable in the fourth. That's when he scored nine of his game-high 26 points. Just as important as the points was the fact that Green grabbed seven rebounds, which is yet another area of his game that is often questioned
The Celtics only had 15 which led to 14 points for the Grizzlies, but that just tells part of the story. The bigger issue was that they took away valuable scoring opportunities that would have made a world of difference in their hopes of extending their winning streak to three in a row.
The Celtics have been among the NBA's cellar-dwellers in assists all season, so it's not that surprising that they finished with just 14 on Wednesday. And the sad part is half of those assists came in the fourth quarter when they were frantically trying to get back in the game.