C’s Haunted by First-Quarter Lull Despite Comeback Effort in Detroit

The importance of playing a full 48 minutes of hard-nosed basketball was emphasized for the Boston Celtics Friday night, after rallying back from a 21-point deficit in Detroit only to fall three points shy of a victory.

After taking a 93-88 lead over the Pistons with 4:15 remaining in the game, Boston went ice-cold and was outscored 8-0 down the final stretch en route to a 96-93 defeat inside Little Caesars Arena. Brad Stevens and his players were peppered with questions about that scoreless stretch after the game, but they collectively felt that the result truly stemmed back to their effort during the opening quarter when they were outscored 27-12.

“They obviously started well so that was probably a large part of it,” Stevens said of how that first quarter impacted the loss. “I thought the most obvious sign of it was our transition running offensively. It bled into the rest of the game. I just didn't think we ran hard. We did at the end of the game, we did a good job but these guys are long, athletic, they are well-coached, they are going to be really hard to score on if we start offense at 14 (on the shot clock) and it's not really crisp.”

Jayson Tatum took on some of the blame after the game, noting how he and his fellow starters needed to come out with more urgency despite playing well during the final three quarters.

“Myself, (Marcus) Smart, (Daniel) Theis, Tristan (Thompson), [Jaylen Brown], we got to start the game better to set the tone for the rest of the team,” said Tatum, who scored a game-high 28 points. “The older guys, that's on us.”

With that being said, Tatum and the rest of the starters did a great job of getting the team back into the game. He tallied exactly half of his game-high 28 points during the third quarter, helping Boston to cut its 15-point halftime deficit down to six.

Tatum and Brown then led the Celtics to a 20-9 start in the fourth quarter, but then everyone went cold during the final four minutes when the C’s missed all 11 of their field-goal attempts.

“We had a lot of wide-open shots,” Stevens said of those final four minutes. “I think what we did was we started off so poorly in the first half, we just decreased our margin for error and every one of those shots was way more meaningful than if we played with better substance in the first half. That might have been the basketball gods’ way of saying that we didn't deserve to win the game.”

His team will take that as a lesson learned moving forward, to strive for a complete 48-minute effort from the opening tip.

“It's about being consistent,” said Brown, who followed up Wednesday night’s career-high 42-point effort against Memphis with a 25-point performance Friday night. “So, keep continuing to make the effort, continuing to adjust is going to be key for us. I think we'll be fine down the line."

Fortunately for the Celtics, they’ll have an opportunity to adjust immediately, as they will face Detroit again in less than 48 hours. And you can bet that they will be making more of a point to come out firing on all cylinders against the Pistons right from the opening tip Sunday afternoon.

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