The short-handed Boston Celtics took down the surging Memphis Grizzlies Wednesday night 119-95. The Grizzlies were 14-7 in their last 21 games after starting the season just 6-16, and have launched themselves all the way into the playoff picture in the Western Conference. However, even a Celtics team missing Jaylen Brown proved to be far too much for them to handle.
1. Jayson Tatum
Jayson Tatum might just be the Celtics’ best player when his shot is falling. Unfortunately, he’s been maddeningly inconsistent all season.
Last night he shot 50% from the field and led the team in scoring with 23 points despite leaving the game in the third quarter.
Tatum currently leads the Celtics in isolation frequency, so when he is hitting shots he can bail out Boston’s offense if things aren’t working on any given possession. If Tatum can buy a couple baskets in isolation the Celtics are going to be very difficult to beat.
2. Defensive Pressure
The Celtics have been scoring in bunches over the last two games, but it’s their defensive intensity that has dug them out of their slump. It has been particularly noticeable in their perimeter defense; I guess Brad Steven suddenly realized he has four elite-level perimeter defenders and finally got them to be completely engaged all at the same time.
Whatever speech Stevens gave the team after losing to the Phoenix Suns, it worked. Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart, Jayson Tatum, and Gordon Hayward have been consistently getting in passing lanes leading to a sudden spike in fast-break points.
Last night, the Celtics, specifically Marcus Smart, held Ja Morant (averages 17.5 points per game) to 2 points on 1-for-5 shooting.
- 19 forced turnovers
- 20 fast-break points
- 16 points off turnovers
If the Celtics keep smothering their opponents like this, there aren’t many teams that can keep up with them.
At one point in the second quarter, the Celtics went on a 23-0 run which is almost unheard of. This game was full of big scoring runs for the Celtics and that 23-0 one was also part of a 12-minute stretch of the C’s outscoring Memphis 41-9. Outside of the first quarter, this game was an absolute beat down.