Eighteen games into the 2013-14 season, one issue that has plagued the Celtics has been slow starts.
That was particularly apparent Wednesday against the Memphis Grizzlies, when the Celtics faced a 27-13 deficit after the first quarter. Having to claw their way back into the game, the Celtics could not muster enough offense, eventually falling, 100-93.
The Celtics hoped to reverse that trend, and they did a good job in Friday’s 103-86 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers at TD Garden.
“You have nights where you really shoot the ball well, I don’t know why that is,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. “But sometimes you can get rolling and sometimes you play with a great deal of confidence and that is kind of what happened tonight.
“The deal is when you have those nights you better win. I’m glad that we found a way to do that. That might have been our best game on both ends of the floor that we have played. We had a number of different guys contribute.”
After Kyrie Irving scored for the Cavaliers to make it 5-2 Boston, the Celtics scored the next 13 points, with Cleveland going 7:14 between field goals.
By the time the first quarter was over, the Celtics held a 28-10 lead. They never looked back, leading by as many as 25 points. The Cavaliers never trailed by less than double digits after the first four minutes.
“I may have said, ‘Let’s start off strong’ once, but it wasn’t a huge emphasis,” Stevens said. “The emphasis was, ‘Earn the right to score, earn the right to get stops,’ and the reason being is because there [are] a lot of little things that go into getting a chance to score the ball.
“We didn’t do some of those little things in that first quarter against Memphis and it hurt us. As a result we turned it over and they got a couple of buckets that we can’t guard because they’re 2-on-1’s, or 2-on-0’s, and that kind of got us behind.
“[Friday] it was more about just doing our job better early on and through the entire game, and I thought we did a pretty good job of that; I thought we played pretty maturely most of the night.”
Jeff Green scored 20 of his game-high 31 points in the first half, while Avery Bradley had 13 and Brandon Bass scored 9 in the first 24 minutes. The Celtics were 11 for 18 from the field in the first quarter and ended the half 20 for 33.
“It was nice to put everything together,” said Green. “We have had our ups and downs throughout the season. We have had quarters where we play well and quarters that we didn’t, but it was good to put an all-around good game together.”
“It’s good to start off strong like that,” said Jordan Crawford, who had a triple-double with 11 points, 11 rebounds, and 10 assists. “Every game that we do start off slow, it’s sluggish throughout the game, so it’s good to get ahead.”
Jared Sullinger was a strong contributor on offense, especially from behind the arc, knocking in 4 of 5 3-point attempts. He entered the game just 9 of 34 from deep this season.
“I heard [Stevens] talking about how I don’t take enough [3-pointers], so he kind of emphasized me shooting them more,” Sullinger said. “It’s definitely something I have worked on this summer a lot; I’ve been shooting them every day.”
In the Celtics’ previous 10 games, they had led after one quarter only three times, scoring an average of 19.2 points. Consequently, their record was 3-7.
Friday’s win snapped a four-game home losing streak that dated to Nov. 13 against the Bobcats. A loss would have meant the franchise’s first five-game home losing streak since the 2006-07 season.
“It feels good to just get a win at home, period,” Green said. “These fans deserve it; they’ve been supporting us since Day 1.
“We’ve had our games some nights where we’ve lost it, but they’ve still come to support us, so it feels good to get a win for them like this.”
The Celtics’ 18-point lead after the first quarter was their largest of the season.
Their previous high came in their second game of the season, when they took a 13-point lead into the second quarter before losing to the Bucks, 105-98.