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Grizzlies 111, Celtics 91

Celtics staggered in grisly home loss

By Julian Benbow
Globe Staff / March 11, 2010

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The Celtics were in their house yet again watching another team put their feet up on the couch.

The final quarter of their 111-91 loss to the Grizzlies last night almost had the feel of a scrimmage. Coach Doc Rivers began the period with his starters on the bench.

The Garden was all yellow and black, more seats empty than occupied.

Hasheem Thabeet, the second pick in last year’s draft who was fresh up from a six-game stay in the D-League, was throwing dunks down and getting his confidence up.

The Celtics were just waiting out the clock.

When Rivers looked at the scoreboard and saw that there were only two minutes left in a game that was essentially over after the first 12, he saw the only thing close to light at the end of the tunnel.

“When they announced that, that was the only good message this entire game,’’ Rivers said. “We were awful. Energy was awful.’’

Memphis had offensive options in the starting lineup — Rudy Gay (28 points and eight rebounds), Zach Randolph (13 points, 10 rebounds), O.J. Mayo (17 points), and Mike Conley (12), plus Sam Young (11 points) and Marcus Williams (16) off the bench.

The Celtics, who missed 15 of their first 20 shots, put themselves in a 27-12 hole after the first quarter, and scored a season low 33 points in the first half.

When the rookie Young took off a few feet in front of the Celtics bench and scored at the 9:21 mark of the fourth, fans started heading for the exits.

All Boston’s Ray Allen (17 points, same as Rajon Rondo) could do was watch in disgust.

“It [ticks] me off,’’ Allen said. “I want to do the best job that I know how. It’s a lot of people’s first time in the building . . . performance-wise you want to do everything you can to show people enjoyment.’’

Manny Pacquiao gave the Celtics boxing gloves before the game. The Grizzlies never let them get a punch in. Gay scored any way he wanted, whether he was drilling threes (3 of 5) or cramming one-handed flushes, such as his huge dunk on a second-quarter breakaway that made it 50-31.

The Celtics had no answer for the Grizzlies on the boards, where Memphis dominated, 48-29, the worst margin since Boston was outrebounded, 55-32, by the Spurs in December. The Grizzlies seemed to feed off sucking the life out of the Celtics.

“Because we didn’t make shots, you could see us not running back on defense, getting down,’’ Rivers said.

The further the Celtics sank, the more energized Memphis seemed to become. Rivers said his team (average age: 29) can’t be expected to run with a team like Memphis (24.5).

“It hurts when you give them spirit,’’ Rivers said. “There’s no doubt about that. We’re not going to get any quicker. You know when you give an athletic team that’s skilled — I mean they’re a skilled athletic team — when you give them confidence, the way we’re constructed, it makes it difficult.’’

The Celtics took yet another beating at home, where they are 18-12, this time to a Memphis team still trying to figure out a way into the playoffs in a crowded Western Conference.

For the Grizzlies, who stomped out every attempt at a comeback, the win was a lesson learned from their own experience (they had blown a 21-point lead to New Jersey Monday but hung on to win), and also from watching the Celtics.

“It was a constant theme of tonight’s game,’’ said Conley. “Boston, they win games here. However they do it, they’re going to win. You have to always keep playing the same way when you have the lead. We were just trying to keep that in our head and come out with the win.’’

For the Celtics, it was baffling to be this deep into the season and still searching for an identity at home. The boos began to rain down late in the first quarter and only seemed to let up when the Celtics went on mini runs or when cheerleaders were giving out T-shirts.

“Surprises me when you come out on your home court and get this kind of loss and get booed by your home [crowd],’’ Paul Pierce said.

“We get booed, it’s been a couple times this year, and it’s been about five or six years since I’ve seen that. And, 17 games over .500. All the fans want is constant effort night in and night out and I think we’ve got to be more consistent with that, regardless of win or lose.’’

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