On the second night of a back-to-back, the shorthanded Boston Celtics would end up falling just short in a tough loss against the Memphis Grizzlies, with the final score being 132-126. With Kemba Walker and Jayson Tatum out for the night, the Celtics were relying heavily on Jaylen Brown to step up and take control of the game. And while he led Celtics in scoring with 27 points, it wasn’t enough to get the Celtics back above the .500 mark, and they are left searching for answers yet again.
The Celtics controlled the game for most of the first half, and took a 65-60 lead into the break. Surprisingly enough, Jeff Teague led the Celtics in the first half with 13 points, while Brown and Marcus Smart also reached the double-digit threshold as well. However, the Grizzlies used the second quarter to establish their interior game, and continued it into the third quarter, where they outscored the Celtics 34-21. The Celtics had no answer for the Grizzlies offense, as they continually got to the hoop, and rarely ended up shooting any threes. The C’s offense also lost much of it’s positive momentum from the first half, and reverted back to their stagnant ways for much of the third quarter.
This game appeared to be heading down a similar path for the Celtics, where they let the game slip away with one awful quarter, before trying to fight their way back into it in the fourth, only to come up short. While it would eventually happen in overtime, it wasn’t the same story in the fourth quarter. After battling back to tie the game up, the Celtics found themselves down by four with under a minute left. They managed to tie the game at 117 a piece before Ja Morant missed a potential game winning three, sending the game to the extra frame. It was definitely nice to see the Celtics not completely fall flat on their faces for once, and show some resolve with the game on the line.
That feeling was short lived, as the Celtics fell apart in overtime, much like they have done in the fourth quarter for most of the season. Jeff Teague did most of the scoring in overtime, as he scored six points to keep the Celtics in the game. After bringing the game to 127-125 with 90 seconds left, the Celtics failed to record another field goal. When the game gets to those stretches where a basket is desperately needed, the Celtics can just never seem to find one. Despite fighting their way into overtime, it was disappointing to see the Celtics just throw the game away again.
Whereas in previous losses to the Cleveland Cavaliers and Sacramento Kings, there are some positives to take away from this game. For starters, the Celtics bench players showed great determination in their expanded roles in this one, which is a good sign, especially if they can keep it up. Jeff Teague had a huge game, as he dropped 26 points while also leading the way with six assists. Rob Williams continued to make a case for more minutes with 17 more points, and some huge defensive plays late in the game as well. Grant Williams dropped in 10 points as well, and continues to make Semi Ojeleye seem expendable at this point. On a night where the Celtics could have rolled over and died due to this being the second leg of a back-to-back and being without Tatum and Walker, they fought hard and nearly stole the game away from the Grizzlies.
The Celtics also kept the ball moving for most of the night. Their best basketball came when they were passing the ball around the court, and it was tough to see them go away from that in the second half. Teague’s playmaking abilities were definitely helpful tonight, as the Celtics have clearly struggled with ball movement for much of the season. If they can get into a rhythm offensively, this team is tough to stop, it’s just getting into that rhythm that’s been an issue.
The Celtics defense continues to be an issue though. The Grizzlies absolutely destroyed the Celtics in the paint, as Ja Morant’s slashing abilities combined with Jonas Valanciunas paint presence was just too much for the Celtics. The Grizzlies hit 55 shots on the night, but only 12 were from behind the arc, so they clearly got their work done in the paint. They also managed 17 offensive rebounds, as it just wasn’t a pretty night overall for the Celtics on the glass. The defensive intensity needs to be cleaned up, and it’s on coach Brad Stevens to fix that end of the court quickly, as they just cannot be allowing a team like the Grizzlies to be scoring 132 points on them.
Things won’t get much easier for the Celtics, as they now head to Milwaukee for two games against the Bucks. The Celtics have been struggling to stay in games with lower level teams lately, so things could get ugly for the Celtics in these games if they continue to struggle. Hopefully the Tatum and Walker rejoining the lineup can help the Celtics get back on track against the Bucks, but that may just be wishful thinking at this point.
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