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Celtics respond after Brad Stevens suggests first-half play versus Grizzlies was pathetic

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Celtics top Grizzlies for 14th straight home win (0:50)

Boston outscores Memphis 31-12 in the third quarter and cruises to a 116-96 win for their 14th consecutive victory at home, the longest streak for the Celtics since the 1990-91 season. (0:50)

BOSTON -- Leave it to the ever-eloquent Evan Turner to best abridge the plight of the Boston Celtics after a lethargic first half against the injury-battered Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday night.

"If we didn’t snap into Slim Jim, it could have been a long game," offered Turner. Fortunately, Boston's batch of macho men were motivated after coach Brad Stevens expressed disappointment in their lack of intensity over the first 24 minutes and responded with an energy-filled second half that helped the Celtics race away with their 14th straight home victory with a 116-96 triumph at TD Garden.

This is Boston's longest home winning streak since 18 consecutive during the 1990-91 season.

"[Stevens] just told us it was pathetic and we needed to pick it up and have some pride and dignity and defend home court," said Turner, who has a propensity to embellish. But All-Star point guard Isaiah Thomas added that Stevens "didn’t say too much [at halftime]. He was upset. But, I mean, that’s what happens when he expects a lot of us."

Despite fresh legs from three days off and a reminder that this Memphis squad was plenty dangerous after it stunned the Cavaliers on Monday, the Celtics came out flat. Boston let rookie Jarell Martin -- he of eight career points in eight appearances this season for the Grizzlies -- score 15 first-half points on 7-of-8 shooting as Memphis took a three-point lead into the intermission.

Stevens was brief but firm. The team's video staff had already queued up some clips to emphasize his message.

"It wasn’t brain surgery," Stevens said. "I just walked in and said, ‘They’re beating us to every loose ball and getting every rebound. This is the way they beat you tonight. So we either have to change that or we won’t win.'"

Boston's first two offensive possessions of the second half ended with free throws, an encouraging sign that the Celtics were going to be more aggressive. Thomas, in particular, seemed motivated and went into attack mode while scoring 16 of his game-high 22 points in a frame in which the Celtics would outscore the Grizzlies 31-12. Thomas had five third-quarter field goals, while the Grizzlies as a team generated just three.

"First half, we watched a little bit of film; the pace wasn’t good, and we weren’t getting the 50/50 balls, we weren’t playing like we know how," Thomas said. "Third quarter, I kinda put it on myself to try to, when we got the ball, just push the pace, force the issue just a little bit, and get my guys going with that. That made a difference."

The limping Grizzlies, playing without stars Marc Gasol, Mike Conley and Zach Randolph, were further short-handed when point guard Mario Chalmers went down with a non-contact foot injury midway through the third quarter. That made Lance Stephenson one half of a ballhandling combo that also featured Tony Allen. For the game, Stephenson was 1-of-8 shooting and minus-18 in plus/minus over 21 minutes. One of Allen's third-quarter pass attempts hit Boston's Tyler Zeller as he was trying to check into the game at the scorer's table.

The Celtics cranked up their intensity and turned what had been a two-possession game with 5:34 to play in the third quarter into an 18-point advantage in the final seconds of the frame. To emphasize the uptick in play, the Celtics owned an offensive rating of 95 and a defensive mark of 103.9 for a net rating of minus-8.9 points per 100 possessions in the first half; in the second, Boston had an offensive rating of 131 and a defensive mark of 85.9, for a net of plus-45.1.

Combined with Miami's loss in Milwaukee, the Celtics got a bit of breathing room in the race for the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference. Boston is back to a season-high 13 games over .500, has won six of its past seven overall and holds a 1½-game edge -- and the tiebreaker -- over the nearby Heat.

"Every game counts," said Turner. "So to be able to come out here, get the victory, execute pretty well [in the second half] and get our legs back under us from a couple day layoff is huge."

Thomas, who entered Wednesday's game without committing a turnover in the month of March, saw his streak end at 107 minutes, 12 seconds of total floor time, but in that span, he posted 91 points and 16 assists, stats that Stevens had marveled at before the game because of how much time the ball spends with Thomas.

Asked about the end of the streak when Thomas couldn't deliver a feed to Jared Sullinger under the hoop with 5:31 to play in the first quarter, Stevens proved that Boston's second-half play had changed his halftime mood.

"Yeah," Stevens deadpanned, "we’re gonna run tomorrow."