For all their greatness and the fact they’ve had non-refundable Hall of Fame reservations for years, neither Paul Pierce nor Kevin Garnett is Bill Russell. But their combined absence is having an effect on the Celtics similar to Russell’s retirement.

The current crew remained winless, falling to the Grizzlies, 95-88, last night. They have opened the season 0-4 for the first time since the autumn of 1969, just months after Russell took his 11th championship and walked away from the game.

The struggling and mismatched reconstruction project in green did well to seriously threaten one of the better Western Conference teams, holding a fourth-quarter lead. But extracting a victory was beyond the C’s present reality.

Jeff Green scored 22 points, and Jared Sullinger added 16, but Jerryd Bayless had all 15 of his in the fourth quarter to save the Grizzlies.

The Celtics looked like they were ready to be pushed over the edge as the third quarter wore on. But as we’ve learned with this team through four games, looks can be deceiving.

Old friend Tony Allen had just put the hammer down with a steal and soaring fast-break jam that gave the Grizzlies a 66-57 lead with 4:21 left. But the hosts went scoreless the rest of the frame while the C’s poured in 15 straight points. They began the run with a Jordan Crawford 3-pointer and ended it with a Sullinger 3-pointer for a 72-66 advantage.

The Celts then raised their lead to seven when Courtney Lee hit a trey a little more than two minutes into the final quarter.
But Allen had a large hand in the Grizzlies’ reply. Two hands, even. While Bayless was hitting jumpers from all zones, Allen set the tone, simply ripping the ball out of Green’s hands on one play.
A 12-7 run got Memphis even at 82, and the Grizzlies inched further ahead from there. The Celtics were down just one when the Grizzlies got a reprieve after an Allen missed trey. The ball went out of bounds and originally was given to the C’s, but a conference of refs gave it to Memphis, and a look at the replay confirmed the second call.

Marc Gasol then hit a 15-footer for a 91-88 lead with 1:35 left. After an exchange of failed possessions, Sullinger and Green both missed 3-pointers before Mike Conley canned two free throws for a five-point spread with 15.4 seconds left.

It was yet another admirable comeback for the Celtics, and, alas, another loss.

The Celts came in looking for more stability at point guard, and while Brad Stevens wasn’t pinning all the blame for the club’s turnover issues on Avery Bradley, clearly he was looking for more from him.

He didn’t get much in the first quarter. Bradley opened the scoring with a jumper, but he committed a turnover and two fouls, earning a seat in favor of Crawford after the latter, which came just 4:43 after tipoff.