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January 02. 2013 11:24PM

Celtics lose fourth straight


Memphis Grizzlies guard Tony Allen hugs his former coach, Boston Celtics head coach Doc Rivers, at the end of the Grizzlies' 93-83 win on Wednesday night at TD Garden. (REUTERS)

BOSTON - The Memphis Grizzlies, off to the best start in franchise history, raised their record to 20-9 with a 93-83 victory over the slumping Boston Celtics on Wednesday night.

Boston, swept in three games in California, dropped its fourth straight, its fifth in the past six games. The Celtics fell to 14-17.

Mike Conley scored 23 points and dished out nine assists for Memphis, which hit eight of its first 12 shots from 3-point range, built an 18-point fourth-quarter lead and held off a mild Celtics charge. The Grizzlies missed their last six from behind the arc.

Rudy Gay, who has been struggling, scored 19 points, and former Celtics guard Tony Allen had 15 as the Grizzlies iced the game from the foul line. Memphis scored its final basket with 7:15 left.

Celtics guard Avery Bradley made his season debut, returning after two shoulder surgeries. He started and scored four points in 20 minutes.

Boston point guard Rajon Rondo, a question mark coming in due to a bruised hip, had 11 points and 10 assists, while Paul Pierce had 17 points and seven rebounds. Kevin Garnett added 12 points, seven boards and five assists.

Memphis came into the game as the NBA's defensive leader, limiting opponents to an average of 90 points, and it easily beat that number.

Trailing 79-61, the Celtics went on a 10-2 run to cut the Memphis lead to 10 with 7:36 left, finally giving the TD Garden crowd something to cheer about.

The Grizzlies, who entered the night averaging 94.5 points per game, 22nd in the NBA, trailed by four after the first two minutes of the second quarter before taking over. They ran off a 10-0 spurt over a 2:26 span, including two 3-pointers by Darrell Arthur.

The 10-0 run grew to 21-8 by the end of the half, giving the Grizzlies a nine-point lead at the break. The margin was up to 15 midway through the third quarter, making the home crowd restless. It was 75-59 at the end of the third quarter, and the lead grew to 18 in the opening seconds of the fourth.

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Notes: Memphis guard Jerryd Bayless left the game in the first half with a left ankle strain and didn't return. ... While Rondo was questionable coming in, Bradley's return was expected, and Boston coach Doc Rivers threw them out there together at the start. "I just think the quicker we get to our lineup, the better," Rivers said. "We're going to get to it anyway, so why wait?" The first Boston basket? Rondo to Bradley for a layup. ... Big man Fab Melo, one of two Syracuse players drafted by the Celtics in 2012, was recalled from the Development League, but only as a technicality. He was in Boston to be examined for a mild concussion (suffered walking into a hotel door). In 12 games with the Maine Red Claws, he is averaging 10.9 points, 6.9 rebounds and 3.83 blocks per game and set a league record for blocks when he had 14 to go with 15 points and 16 boards Dec. 22. ... The Celtics host the Pacers on Friday night and then visit Atlanta and the Knicks on Saturday and Monday, respectively. The Grizzlies finished a two-game trip Wednesday. They go home to play Portland on Friday night and then visit Phoenix to open a three-game road trip. ... While Bradley returned to help with the defense, Allen, Bradley's predecessor as Boston's defensive specialist, was in town with Memphis. Allen scored the first two baskets of the game.


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