Slow start returns vs. Nets, dooms Celtics

Slow start returns vs. Nets, dooms Celtics
December 11, 2013, 1:00 am
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BROOKLYN, N.Y. — The first quarter was over and the Boston Celtics found themselves in an unfamiliar place - trailing.

Coming into Tuesday's game, Boston was riding a three-game winning streak in large part because of how they waxed teams from the opening tip-off.

But there they were, trailing 31-20 after the first quarter.

And while Boston was able to get closer, the Celtics never got into any kind of flow or rhythm which is absolutely essential to them having any shot at winning games.

Void of that, Boston could never quite make enough plays on Tuesday as the Nets handed the Celtics a 104-96 loss.

And while there were ample opportunities for Boston to make plays and establish control of the game, it's hard to look past how the failings of the first quarter was so radically different than what folks had grown accustomed to seeing from them in the three previous games - all Boston wins.

During the three-game winning streak, Boston crushed opponents by a decisive 101-49 margin.

"If you look at the last couple games we have gotten out to a great start and we didn't do that tonight," said Boston's Gerald Wallace. "We let them get going; we kind of settled in the first half and found ourselves in a hole in the second half."

A big part of Boston's slower-than-usual start was the play of Deron Williams, back in the Nets lineup following an ankle injury.

He led all scorers with 25 points to go with seven assists.

More important, it was his play that set the tone for the entire game.

"I thought against their (Boston) pressure, he went back at the pressure," said former Celtic Kevin Garnett who had 11 points and nine rebounds for the Nets. "He set up a lot of us up for easy shots that we could make."

Said Williams: "I just tried to get going. I knew watching games that we were a little stagnant at times and we needed to, you know, pick up the tempo and the pace and so, I just wanted to try to get the team going early."

His play came as no surprise to Boston head coach Brad Stevens, who voiced his concern prior to the game about Williams' potential impact.

"I think you saw what I was talking about with Deron Williams," Stevens said afterwards. "He was driving it in, and kicking the ball out for Brooklyn. He made huge plays for them. I thought he was the biggest difference in the game."

And while Boston was certainly disappointed in the outcome, the effort was not an issue.

In fact, there were times in the fourth quarter when the game seemed out of the reach, Boston would come up with a play and keep it from totally getting away from them and by doing so, keep a glimmer of hope alive that they could rally for the victory.

"Well, while the game is going on you want to compete every second of the game," said Boston's Jordan Crawford. "We have a good group in this locker room and we always want to compete."

And that is the identity of this team, fast start or no fast start.