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Must Cs: Celtics puzzled about first quarter woes

No NBA team has scored fewer first-quarter points since mid-November.

NBA: Boston Celtics at New York Knicks Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

NEW YORK — The Celtics struggle to understand how they’re not jumping into games with more energy and enthusiasm. They stood gridlocked with the Knicks at the end of the first quarter, allowing one of the more hapless teams in the NBA minus Marcus Morris to hang around and pace the game through its midway point.

In the late sequences, Brown and Tatum bolstered Boston’s offense to victory, along with a 2-for-4 closing sequence from Kemba. But concerns remain as the team prepares for the Heat, Nuggets and more challenging teams ahead.

Brad Stevens: “We weren’t very good at the start of the game.”

Brad Stevens continues to shuffle his bigs based on need. It flowed from a scoring need that pulled Enes Kanter into action and Rob Williams’ rebounding and movement late. The start frustrated Stevens, as Boston chased the Knicks for most of the game before pulling away on late buckets from Kemba Walker and Jayson Tatum. “Our approach has to improve as a team,” Stevens said. “Especially at the beginning of games.”

Jaylen Brown: “As you get older, winning is ... what matters.”

Brown, like his teammates, doesn’t see the Celtics energy where it needs to be. He’s proud of how the team is finding ways to win in spite of it though, tonight being his and Jayson Tatum’s aggressiveness.

Kemba Walker: “I don’t think we’re playing our best basketball as of late.”

Walker continues to express joy at the success of his teammates even when he struggles. He started 4-for-14 against the Knicks before emerging late, which allowed Brown and Tatum to lead the offense and combine for 58 points on 21-for-41 shooting. Since Nov. 15, the Celtics rank last in first-quarter scoring with 22.8 points per game. “We’ve got to be better.”

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