At Memphis 12/29: Don’t Poke The Leprechaun, Poke The Bear

FINAL: Boston: 112 Memphis: 103

It was a tale of two halves last night in Memphis as the Celtics were able to come back and squeak out a win on the road. As for their performance, we saw some good things, some bad things, and some flat out ugly things. To start off I want to dive into the 20-5 run the Grizzlies went on to close the first half (this can be categorized as ugly). It was a piss poor stretch of basketball where for 6 minutes the Celtics went 1-8 from the floor with 3 turnovers. The Grizzlies did a good job of lulling the Celtics into their pace and kept them out of the paint. As we know, the Celtics just jack up long twos and threes no matter how poorly they’re shooting and that’s exactly what happened during this run. While they did eventually get out of it, it’s another example of the Celtics falling asleep for quarters at a time as in the second they were outscored 38-18. The Grizzlies were beating the Celtics at their own game; forcing turnovers and moving the basketball. The Celtics were careless committing 10 turnovers in the first half and the Grizzlies were able to capitalize early on.

What wasn’t sustainable about the Grizzlies’ play was their shooting percentage of 64.9% in the first half. Dillon Brooks looked like Kobe (3-4 in the 1st half 13 points) while the Celtics had no answer for Jaren Jackson Jr. and Marc Gasol in the post (combined 9-11 in the first half ) . They just continually crammed it into the paint and it was working early on with the lack of healthy bigs for Celtics. The Grizzlies’ strength has never been three point shooting and from their first half shot chart, it’s clear they wanted to get into the lane and force the issue.

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The only notable thing to happen for the Celtics in the first half was this thunderous put-back dunk early in the first from Jayson Tatum. Don’t hurt the rim Jayson, it didn’t do anything to you.

Now for as faulty as the Celtics looked in the first half, they flipped the switch in the second half. They played a nearly flawless half of basketball while playing their game. They outscored the Grizz 65-39 in the second half and put their foot down on both the defensive end and on offense. The third quarter specifically is where they began to turn it around as their defense led to offense. They jumped the Grizzlies in the post over and over again and it led to 8 Memphis turnovers as they scored 15 of their 32 third quarter points off of turnovers. Marcus Smart continues to be a goblin on defense as he had multiple plays where he jumped a passing lane, made a good read, or forced his opponent into a tough shot.

I don’t see anybody else in the league who just straight up rips the ball with two hands from his opponent with ease. He and Tatum paced the Celtic defense with 4 steals apiece.  To close the third, with some help from Kyrie on offense they were able to cut the deficit to 8 and enter the fourth trailing 87-79.

With some help from Kyrie Irving, Al Horford, and Marcus Morris in the fourth, the Celtics were able to take this one home. Kyrie had 25 points and 13 assists on the night, while Horford had 18 and 6 boards, and Morris pitched in 22 of his own. 9 of Horford’s 18 points came in the last 3 minutes as he had an and 1 and two dagger three pointers to ice it for the Celtics.

Since coming back from his knee injury, this is the best he’s looked and he made the Grizzlies pay from deep as he went 5-7 from downtown.

Kyrie was just outstanding once again and every single game he impresses me more and more. Scal said it at one point late after this crazy pass to Hayward that Kyrie makes the right basketball play over and over again.

That’s something that is always said about Al in the sense that he always makes the right basketball play. It’s such a valuable attribute to have and with Kyrie’s talent, being able to put that part of it together is going to make for a scary combination.

He takes pride in getting his teammates involved and his all-around game is so much better than I could’ve ever imagined. I was always told prior to the trade that brought him to Boston that Kyrie was a ball hog who was a liability on the defensive end. He’s said it himself that in Boston he’s asked to do different things (than in Cleveland) and has embraced playing a more all-around game. He had 5 assists in the fourth alone and while Horford was hot late, Kyrie made an effort to get him the ball in open spots.

I always rave about Marcus Morris and maybe it’s annoying and maybe it’s overkill but I don’t care. This dude is NAILS at all times. He’s dancing around a 50/40/90 season in terms of shooting as after last night he’s at 50/43.7/89.5 en route to a career high 15.4 points per game. Yes, Marcus Morris SENIOR is 0.5% away from a 50/40/90 season. That is the gold standard for shooting and in my opinion he’s been the Celtics second best player and most reliable player all year. Get this man in the All-Star Game please. I sure wouldn’t want Marcus to know I didn’t vote for him, you should think the same way. I’ll be stuffing the ballot with votes for him and it’d be such a great story if he made it.

A couple of lasting things that stood out to me as well were the efforts of both Hayward and Yabusele off the bench. Hayward posted 14 points 4  assists and 3 boards while Yabu made a difference on the defensive end and gave the Celtics some needed size in the front court.

Hayward’s looked slow and indecisive most games this season and last night was a step in the right direction. At this point, I’m convinced it’s all mental as he just needs to shed the natural fear of coming down on his ankle funny again and just play. He did that for the most part last night as he had a couple of nice iso plays, hit a three off the catch, and went to the basket hard even finishing a dunk.

Yabu on the other hand made a difference on the defensive end as he logged 19 minutes, held opponents he covered to 1-6 shooting, hauled in 4 rebounds, and had 2 rejections. That is exactly what they need from him and maybe this is an opportunity for him to show he’s more than just a clown on the bench. In the end it was a valiant showing on the road and the Celtics continue their road trip New Years Eve against the Spurs at 7:00 PM ET.


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