Vs Memphis 1/18: Marcus Smart>Steph Curry

FINAL: Boston: 122 Memphis: 116

After a thriller Wednesday night at TD Garden it was going to be interesting to see how the Celtics performed last night. This season has basically been them looking like world beaters against good teams and then falling flat on their faces against bad teams. It’s very backwards and I’m definitely not a fan of it, so I had some skepticism about last night’s game. They were solid last night and I was elated with the effort they put forth as they fought off a solid team top to bottom. I know the Grizzlies have been reeling lately but when you have a core of Mike Conley, Marc Gasol, and an up and coming star like Jaren Jackson Jr., you’ll be in games every single night.

Conley was his usual self posting 26 points and 4 assists on a smooth 9-18 from the floor. He went tit for tat with Kyrie all night long and he was a huge part of how the Grizzlies were able to make this such a tough game for the Celtics. I doubt he’ll get the nod but he’s having an All-Star level season averaging 20/6/3 on 42/35/85 shooting splits.

The real monster of last night in blue was Jaren Jackson Jr. he had 23 points and 4 rebounds as he showed flashes of dominance here and there on the offensive end.

Some of these plays are scary in terms of what this kid could grow into (HE IS 19). For example, he would just drop step with ease into a dunk like Shaq and I was so impressed with his footwork in the paint for such a young player.

Switching gears to the Celtics I’ll start out with everyone’s favorite three-point shooter. Marcus Smart again showed us how much work he’s put into his jumper as he put a barrage of threes on the Grizzlies. He was 6-8 from downtown en route to a 20 point night and has raised his 3 point percentage to 37.4% on the season. Oh yeah, and he was a team high +23. This was tweeted out during the game and it is absolutely perfect.

Smart has been condemned year in and year out for his willingness to continue shooting threes while only shooting around 30%. Cults of Smart haters across the nation wanted to (lots still want to) ship this man out of town for a bucket of balls and gave Ainge flak for the contract he awarded him with this summer.

It’s been noted how hard he’s worked on his jumper since entering the league and how supportive the Celtics as a whole have been with him. He was the first piece they went out and got to build this new era of Celtic basketball and seeing him reach this stage in his development is fun to watch.

While Smart was one piece of the puzzle tonight, Kyrie Irving might’ve been the rest of it. He followed up his dramatic performance on Wednesday with an equally as impressive one last night. 38/7/11 on 14/21 from the floor and he only committed 3 turnovers in 36 minutes of play. 20 of those 38 came in the third quarter as he just continues to back up what he’s said off of the court and lead this team.

His passing was at peak form, he made people look stupid off the dribble, drilled his share of threes, and had some circus finishes at the rim. From there he not only went off in the third but, he closed the game out for the Celtics with buckets like this one where he put Gasol in the Turkish Twist.

Then this dagger to push the Celtic lead to 8 with just over a minute left.

It’s honestly getting stupid what he’s been doing this season as he became the first Celtic to record multiple games with 35+ points and 10+ assists since Larry Bird. Yes, best Celtic ever Larry Bird. While maybe that doesn’t make you tingle inside, I think it should. Whenever a comparison gets thrown out like that it isn’t good for my brain nor my health as I start getting ideas about what’s in store for Kyrie in green down the line. To put the icing on the cake, he even had a little tiff with Shelvin Mack.

My thoughts during this were pretty simple: “Oh no Shelvin what are you thinking” as I expected Kyrie to torch them after, and he did just that. Signed, sealed, and delivered.

Rebounding was another positive for the green as they out rebounded Memphis 59-41 in what was a huge night for the Celtics on the glass. Baynes led the way with 12 of his own off the bench and from the box score you can see how much everybody chipped in.

screen shot 2019-01-19 at 2.40.38 pm

6 guys on the roster had 6+ rebounds and that’s how this team is going to win the rebounding matchup. They need these contributions from everybody since they’re relatively thin in regards to quality rebounders. Guards need to rebound, wings need to rebound, and that was the recipe for success in last night’s game. Another aspect of the game where the Celtics had an advantage was points off of turnovers (20-12). They did this while the Grizzlies only committed 9 turnovers (compared to the Celtics 17) and it showed again how good this team is converting off of turnovers. It’s always been such a key part of this team’s success and while they weren’t able to force the turnovers at a rabid pace, they were able to take advantage when they had the opportunity.

Al Horford had another efficient night scoring 18 points on a smoldering hot 8-10 from the field. These passed couple of games have been good news for a guy who looked like injuries were starting to wear on him. His three point shot was on point again as well and it’s easy to see how much better this team is offensively and defensively when Al is at the top of his game.

Lastly, while there were plenty of good things from last night, there were still some that could have been improved upon. After building a 16 point lead early on the Celtics they let the Grizzlies come all the way back as they put 38 points on the board in the second quarter. They always seem to give up big leads and it’d be nice if for once they were just able to get up by 15+ and stay there for the rest of the night rather than letting teams all the way back in.

In terms of player performances, Jayson Tatum had another rough night offensively going 0-6 from the field. That makes him a combined 6-22 from the field his last two games and I think he might have to just throw those self lacing shoes in the garbage. He put them on Wednesday and he’s kinda stunk since then so I think he should just go back to a pair of Kyrie’s or something, whatever works. All joking aside, he’s been pretty rough recently so hopefully he can come out of his slump sooner rather than later.

While last night was another step in the right direction, the Celtics can’t get complacent tonight as they travel to Atlanta to take on the Hawks at 7:30 ET.

-Chuck

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