Mike Conley scored 23 points while former Celtic Tony Allen hit his first six shots and finished with 15 points as the Grizzlies handed the Celtics their fourth straight loss, 93-83, Wednesday night at TD Garden. The Celtics fell to a season-worst three games under .500 at 14-17. While Paul Pierce led the Celtics with 17, Kevin Garnett struggled badly for the first three quarters, making just three of his first 12 shots, and finishing with 12 points. Jeff Green had 10 points off the bench for the Celtics, who were outrebounded, 39-27. Former UConn star Rudy Gay finished with 19 for the Grizzlies, who improve to 20-9.
Avery Bradley started in his first game of the season after surgery on both shoulders. Bradley, considered the best on-ball defender on the Celtics, played 20 minutes, scoring just four points in a return that was thought to provide a defensive spark.
The Celtics showed some toughness in the first quarter, falling behind 11-4 out of the gate. It was Pierce who led them back, hitting all three 3-pointers he attempted in the quarter and scoring 12 points to lead a late surge that put Boston on top, 26-25, after one quarter. The Celtics were red-hot in the first 12 minutes, shooting 62.5 percent but their defense, even with Bradley back, couldn't keep Memphis from lighting it up - as the visitors made 11-of-17 shots and finished shooting 64.7 percent.
The second quarter was a different story offensively for the Celtics, as they made just 6-of-18 shots and were outscored, 25-15. The Grizzlies, behind 14 first-half points from Conley, ended the second quarter on an 11-5 run to take a 50-41 lead at the half.
Things got worse in the third quarter for the Celtics, as they were outscored 25-18 and fell behind, 75-59, heading into the fourth quarter. With 5:41 left in the fourth, the Celtics closed the gap to eight, 83-75, on a Jason Terry three from the left wing. Another Terry with 4:54 left pulled the Celtics within five, 83-78, as Boston mounted a furious comeback. Allen nailed a pair of key free throws with 4:22 left to build the lead back to seven.
Garnett missed a pair of free throws with 2:55 left and then committed a foul 40 feet from the basket that allowed Memphis to build the lead to 86-78.
The Celtics have Thursday off before hosting the Indiana Pacers at 8 p.m. on Friday night at TD Garden. For complete coverage from the team of Mike Petraglia and Ben Rohrbach, visit the Celtics team page at weei.com/celtics .