Last rites: almost read. Next of kin: almost notified. Fresh grave: almost dug.
And then, for the second straight game, the Celtics let an opponent seemingly come back from the dead to beat them in the final minutes on their home parquet.
On Wednesday, it was the Detroit Pistons, who were down 21 points in the first half and then sprung to life.
Then, during Saturday’s matinee at TD Garden, the Washington Wizards made something of a sequel, coming back from an 18-point first-half deficit to beat the Celtics, 106-99.
After two straight losses, the Celtics sit at 12-16 and are tied for the Atlantic Division lead with the Toronto Raptors. But their losses sting more because they should have been wins.
“Difference between good teams and great teams: You have to step on the pedal when you got them down,” said Celtics guard Jordan Crawford, who had 11 points and eight assists against his former team. “That’s what we have to do.”
Since the Celtics have gotten off to hot starts in their last two games, only to then cool off before losing, it raises the question of whether they start to slack off with a huge lead.
Coach Brad Stevens didn’t see it that way.
“I think more than anything, maybe not playing with enough — just focus on controlling the next thing,” he said. “Because when you start to lose a lead, that’s a challenging thing from a human-nature standpoint. So one of the things that we’ve got to do is we’ve just got to be better in playing the next possession, regardless of circumstance.”
The fact that they’re not following those instructions is partly because they’re a young team, partly because of the other team’s effort, and partly because they’re simply used to losing such games.
“So you never would say a good start’s not good; a good start’s what you want, but you also want the rest of the 48 minutes to be good as well,” Stevens said. “It’s better to be starting good than not, and then the key is we’ve got to play better for 48 minutes.”
Gerald Wallace had a different opinion about why the Celtics keep building leads that are as sturdy as straw houses.
“We’re getting too comfortable with our shots falling,” said the veteran swingman. “Just like anybody, when you’re making shots, the game is a lot easier, it’s a lot more fun, things go better.”
But when a team isn’t making shots, life isn’t so grand, and Wallace said that when the times get tough, the Celtics start pressing.
“Instead of slowing it down, trying to get a good one, we’re forcing a lot of shots, and we’re not making them right now,” he said.
The Celtics opened the game on a 22-8 run and led, 30-14, at the end of the first quarter.
Then the Wizards started to chisel away, and they trailed by 7 (51-44) at halftime.
In the second half, the Wizards kept at it, shredding the Celtics’ lead bucket by bucket.
Then came the final six minutes.
The Celtics led, 92-84 . . . and then the Wizards answered with a 14-1 run, capped by a 3-pointer from Trevor Ariza with 2:24 left that put them ahead, 98-93.
Ariza finished with a game-high 27 points.
The Wizards had taken their first lead on their previous possession, when John Wall, who had 20 points and nine assists, hit a short jumper.
And in those fateful, final six minutes, the Celtics were outscored, 22-7.
Their sour ending spoiled fine outings for Avery Bradley and Jared Sullinger.
Bradley scored 21 of his 26 points in the second half, including 12 in a row between the third and fourth quarters. He made 12 of 18 shots.
Sullinger scored 22 points and grabbed 11 rebounds.
Brandon Bass also had a double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds.
As Stevens and several players looked back, they cited how they let their dwindling offense affect their overall play.
“I think we’re an offensive energy team,” said Sullinger. “We have to be ready to play defense 100 percent of the time, and as long as we do that I think we’re going to be great. But sometimes our defense is our offense and we have to understand that and we have to keep playing.”
Said Stevens: “We got our energy off of made shots in the last two games. We need to get our energy back off of getting stops. Once we do that, that cures a lot of the ills that we’re talking about.”
Celtics fans can take solace in the fact that division rivals New York and Brooklyn had rough starts to their weekends as well.
According to multiple reports, the Nets are expected to be without center Brook Lopez for the rest of the season after he suffered a broken right foot Friday night. He was averaging a team-high 20.7 points.
Also, the Knicks lost . . . well, they just lost again, this time on Saturday afternoon to Memphis.
If the Celtics are looking to rebound, their game Sunday might not be the best option, as they face the 21-5 Pacers in Indianapolis.Baxter Holmes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.