A bad moon rose in Memphis Monday night, with Jayson Tatum a late scratch due to illness, Kemba Walker taking his scheduled rest on the second night of a back-to-back swing, and the Celtics coming in with a particularly odious pattern.
They had lost their previous five second-night opportunities, dating back to a Jan. 25 win over Chicago.
And though they started fast, moving the ball out of necessity, they were also destroyed in the paint in their 132-126 overtime loss to Memphis, wasting a 26-point performance by emergency starter Jeff Teague.
Daniel Theis, fed by a Marcus Smart lob off the break, tied the game at 117-117 with seven seconds left in regulation. Ja Morant missed from the top of the arc, sending the game to overtime.
The Celtics started overtime with Rob Williams on the floor, and Jeff Teague opened scoring with a floater. Dillon Brooks answered from the baseline. Three empty possessions later, Jonas Valanciunas gave Memphis the lead from under the basket.
Jaylen Brown missed a banker, and Grayson Allen buried a 3-pointer for a 124-119 lead.
Williams was fouled with 2:18 left, and hit twice, cutting the margin to three points.
But Brooks pulled up from 10 feet, drew the foul on Brown, and converted the three-point play for a 127-121 Memphis lead.
Teague drove it right back for his 24th point, Kyle Anderson shot an air ball, and Teague drove again with a finger roll for a two-point margin. This time Anderson scored, Smart missed from up top, and Morant rebounded a Brooks miss.
Morant, fouled with 16.5 seconds left, went 1-for-2 at the line for a 130-125 Memphis lead.
Brown’s desperation three attempt bounced off the back of the rim.
Four straight Rob Williams points off a layup and a 15-footer, both fed by Jeff Teague, cut the Memphis lead to 109-105 with 4:35 left.
Williams came out of timeout with a block of Valanciunas, Smart clanked a 3-point attempt, and the Celtics blew another chance when Williams missed two free throws.
But Williams stripped Morant, triggering a transition drive by Brown, cutting the Memphis lead to 110-107.
Anderson boosted the lead back to 111-107 with three minutes left — Brad Stevens’ challenge of the call was unsuccessful — and Smart spun out of a post-up with a wild lefty banker. He drew a foul, but missed the free throw, leaving the Celtics down by two.
But Williams blocked Morant, and Jeff Teague tied the game off the break down the other end.
Brooks took the lead back from 15 feet, and Anderson, after stripping Smart, drove in for the easy make. Brown answered, but Morant scored off an inbounds pass, drew the foul and missed the free throw.
The Celtics called timeout with 52.2 seconds left and trailing, 117-113. Smart scored off an inbounds play, Morant and Brooks both missed the next time down, and Smart fed Theis off the break for the 117-117 tie.
By the end of three quarters the Grizzlies had 68 points in the paint and, not surprisingly, a 94-86 lead. The Celtics’ ball movement had fallen off from a 17-assist first half, and so had their 3-point shooting.
Grant Williams posted up to open the fourth quarter, cutting the Grizzlies lead to six points, but Memphis, now hitting from outside, responded with an DeAnthony Melton trey.
The Grizzlies took a 10-point lead with 9:30 left, with Teague responding with a three-point play. Justice Winslow responded with an easy roll to the basket, and the next time down, Melton answered a Payton Pritchard trey with another deep make of his own.
Memphis carried an eight-point lead into the last seven minutes. Brown hit a fadeaway, but Brooks hit an open corner trey. Brown came back with a corner bomb, and was matched by Morant.
Williams scored off a Teague lob, and then, again assisted by Teague, hit from 15 feet.