By A.Sherrod Blakely
BOSTON The Boston Celtics have been saying for weeks that finishing with the best record in the Eastern Conference would be nice, but not a priority.
Their play of late certainly reflects that sentiment, following yet another head-scratching loss at home to a team they know they had no business losing to.
On Wednesday night it was the Memphis Grizzlies escaping with a 90-87 win, becoming the latest club from the Western Conference to give the C's fits at home.
Trailing 88-87, Boston had a chance to take the lead in the game's closing seconds, but Rajon Rondo's floater in the lane hit the back of the rim before spinning out.
After a pair of Mike Conley free throws, the Celtics had a chance to force overtime.
Coming out of a time-out, it was clear that the Celtics were going to launch a 3-pointer.
Oh, they got one off.
That was expected.
The shooter being Glen Davis?
Definitely not what the Celtics were looking for.
Without being asked about Davis' 3-pointer, coach Doc Rivers said, "no, Baby was not supposed to shoot the 3."
Ill-advised shots seemed to be a recurring theme for the Celtics on Wednesday.
Like the runner in the lane that Rondo missed.
Rivers said he was surprised that Rondo took that shot, at that point in the game.
"I honestly thought Rondo was going to hand it off to Paul Pierce in transition, and once I saw that I thought, 'I'll take that all day.' "
After the game, Rondo said he didn't see Pierce.
"I got what I wanted," Rondo said, referring to the type of shot in that late-game situation. "I just missed."
The same could be said about the Celtics and the growing number of missed opportunities they are letting pass by in their efforts to finish with the best record in the Eastern Conference.
Following Wednesday's loss, Boston (50-20) is now a full game behind Chicago for the best record in the Eastern Conference.
Meanwhile, the Grizzlies (40-32) are fighting to hold on to the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
And wins over championship-caliber teams like the Celtics not only help pad their win total, but also provides a jolt to their confidence.
"This is a great team over there, a great team," said former Celtic Leon Powe, who shared team-high scoring honors for the Grizzlies with 13 points. "And when you can come on the road and beat a great team like that . . . and do it on the defensive end, like I thought we did, it's huge for a young, up-and-coming team."
Powe wasn't the lone former Celtic coming up big for the opposition.
Tony Allen, who elected to sign with Memphis instead of re-signing with Boston this past summer, had eight points and seven rebounds for the Grizzlies.
As for the Celtics, Wednesday was yet another disappointing performance that may come back to bite them if they don't secure the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference.
"A loss is a loss," said Kevin Garnett, who had 10 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists. "Every loss stings."
But Wednesday's loss, he acknowledged, hurt a little bit more than some - and it had nothing to do with losing ground to the Chicago Bulls, either.
"We're at home," Garnett said. "We're trying to establish something at home. So yeah, it stings a little more."