It was a sleepy first quarter that did the Boston Celtics in against the Dallas Mavericks Friday night.
The home team jumped out to an early lead that gave them the cushion necessary to defeat the Celtics, 104-94.
The two teams played each other evenly the rest of the way, but a nine-point deficit after one proved too much to overcome.
Brandan Wright had a career night, going 11-of-16 for 23 points. Dirk Nowitzki poured in 22, and Vince Carter brought 19 points off the bench.
For the Celtics, individual play ranged from mediocre to flat-out duds. Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Brandon Bass all posted 16 points, with the latter two registering double-doubles. They got little help from the bench again and shot 41.6 percent from the field overall.
This was the Celtics third straight loss, and things don't get any easier with a visit to the Memphis Grizzlies for a back-to-back. The defeat drops them to 36-31 on the year and further hampers their chances of improving their playoff seed.
The Mavericks aren't dead yet but remain three games out of the final postseason spot in the Western Conference.
Let's hit the Bleacher Report classroom and see how the Celtics graded out in yet another depressing performance.
Avery Bradley, BOS PG: C+
Avery Bradley's nightmare shooting slump continued against the Dallas Mavericks.
Entering the night shooting just 29 percent over his last five games, Bradley went 4-of-12 for nine points.
He was able to break free for some easy buckets on the fast break and hit a corner three early, but it didn't last. Like the rest of the team, Bradley was ice cold in the second half.
He was his usual terror on the defensive end, hounding both Mike James and O.J. Mayo. Mayo was his main responsibility, and Bradley held him well below his season scoring average.
As good as Bradley is defensively, he still has some learning to do as a young player in the NBA. Vince Carter exploited him after working him out of position a few times in the game.
Courtney Lee, BOS SG: C-
Courtney Lee's defense is just getting better and better this season, aligning opposite Avery Bradley is really helping him.
He wasn't totally brought to Boston for his defense, however, and has to start scoring more aggressively. It is becoming clear that the Celtics can't rely on certain spots for offensive firepower. Each game Lee shows a move or two of explosive penetration. If he can start doing that more, the Celtics will be far more dangerous.
Lee went down with about two minutes left in the game, gripping his knee and grimacing. He appeared to turn his ankle on his defensive assignment's sneaker. With any luck, it will be just a light sprain.
Paul Pierce, BOS SF: B-
It was too little, too late for Paul Pierce.
The Celtics captain scored nine points in the fourth quarter but was unable to get his team over the hump.
An underrated part of Pierce's game was on full display against the Mavericks. Pierce was able to combine some excellent rebounding with stellar passing, pushing out some nice outlet passes that led to easy baskets for his teammates.
He did play a large part in digging Boston's hole initially, with a one-point third quarter. When the Celtics needed to make up ground, he was absent.
The final numbers are actually pretty decent, 16 points and five boards, but Boston needs more from him than this.
The team also needs more consistency.
Brandon Bass, BOS PF: B
Brandon Bass took advantage of one of the Dallas Mavericks' weaknesses. He played a strong inside game, largely taking over the center spot for Boston.
Playing with a rare physicality, Bass was able to power his way to the rim and to the line often. He registered his third double-double of the season and just his first since Nov. 25. His 16 points tied a season-high, and he added 11 rebounds.
It seemed that physical play was limited to the offensive end, however. Defensively, Bass was slow on his rotations and missed a decent number of pick-and-rolls. Opposite him was Brandan Wright, who averages 7.7 points per game. Tonight, Wright was 11-of-16 for a game-high 23 points.
Wright's athleticism and relentless energy was too much for Bass.
Kevin Garnett, BOS C: B+
This was another promising game as Garnett is working his way back from some minor injury and illness. Still, you can tell he isn't fully there.
Offensively it has been nice to see his efficiency return, after a rough start to the month. At the other end, though, he still seems a step slow. The Celtics were torched by the pick-and-roll during the first half, and Garnett repeatedly saw Dirk Nowitzki get the better of him. The Dallas star scored 22 points.
He had the 16-point, 12-rebound double-double, shooting 5-of-10 to get there. He was very active on the offensive end, winding up with five assists as well.
Garnett really hit the boards hard against the weak rebounding bigs Dallas trots out, so his numbers wound up looking more impressive than the performance actually was. Stats are usually fairly easy to get against Nowitzki, but stopping him is a different story.
Overall, this was a step in the right direction for Garnett preparing for the playoffs.
Jeff Green, BOS SF: D+
For the second straight game, Jeff Green got off to a fast start in the first quarter. Also for the second straight game, Green was totally absent after that.
Green went on a drought from the 8:52 mark of the second quarter to 2:31 mark of the fourth. All the aggressiveness we are occasionally treated to went out the window yet again. For nearly three quarters, Green was nowhere to be found.
He did finish with 10 points and four assists, but the Celtics need far more at this point in the season.
Part of this game's reasoning can be explained by early foul trouble, but this is a disturbing trend. That 43-point outing against the Miami Heat is looking more and more like an outlier.
Boston Celtics Bench: C
Jason Terry had some extra pep in his step, returning to Dallas for the first time since leaving for Boston last summer.
Unfortunately, not even a helping hand from Mark Cuban translated to good production. Terry was just 3-of-9 from the field for eight points in 22 minutes.
The Celtics got some real spark to open the fourth quarter from Jordan Crawford. He was able to score on a couple tough shots to get Boston back to within a few possessions but then played sloppy defense at the other end.
Crawford tallied nine points but took 11 shots to get there, missing 4-of-5 threes.
Chris Wilcox chipped in five points in a limited 16 minutes.