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Celts Look to Continue Streak in Memphis

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Boston Celtics (48-12) at Memphis Grizzlies (15-46)  Saturday, March 8
8:00 PM ET
Game #61, Road Game #29
TV:  NBA LP ch 756, CSN HD, SportSouth
Radio:  WEEI, Sirius 152
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Grizzlies Coverage:   3 Shades of Blue     

It's the Celtics turn to be the team playing in back to back games.  In their last two games, the Celtics have easily handled the Pistons and the Bulls who both were playing in the second of back to back games and had to travel the night before.  The fact that the Celtics starters were able to rest the entire 4th quarter last night and all played under 27 minutes will help with the fatigue factor, but getting into Memphis between 3 and 4 am has to take its toll.    But, it is time for the Celtics to test their resolve and reach deep down and pull this one out.  They are pushing for homecourt advantage throughout the playoffs and momentum going into the post season and need to win these games that they should win. 
Memphis is 11-21 at home and Celtics are 20-8 on the road.  The Grizzlies are 1-9 in their last 10 games and won their last game.  The Grizzlies only won 1 game in the month of February and lost 15 of their last 17 games.  They won their last game, however and are looking for back to back wins for only the second Time this season.  The Celtics can't be satisfied with getting a lead and coasting though, since the Grizzlies have overcome double digit deficits  in their last two wins.  
The Celtics and Grizzlies have some ties.  James Posey played 2 seasons with the Grizzlies.  Kendrick Perkins was drafted by the Grizzlies and traded to the Celtics on draft day.   And of course, Chris Wallace, of Vin Baker fame, is now the Grizzlies' GM.  He made an impact in his first season as GM by giving away their best player for basically nothing. 
PJ Brown made his debut as a Celtic against the Bulls and should see some minutes in this game to continue to get him in game shape.  Sam Cassell said he is ready to suit up and play for the Celtics but hasn't practiced with the team and so it is questionable whether he will play in this game.  

More After the Jump
Probable Starting Matchups
PG:  Rajon Rondo vs Mike Conley
SG:  Ray Allen vs Mike Miller
SF:  Paul Pierce vs Rudy Gay
PF:  Kevin Garnett vs Hakim Warrick
C:    Kendrick Perkins vs Darko Milicic
Key Matchups
Rajon Rondo PPG 10.7 RPG 4.30 APG 5.1 EFF + 14.29
Mike Conley   PPG 8.7 RPG 2.20 APG 4.4 EFF + 9.69
Mike Conley was one of the top rated point guards in the last draft and has been playing well.  Rondo has been on a different level recently and should be able to take advantage of this matchup. 

Paul Pierce   PPG 20.4 RPG 5.40 APG 4.7 EFF + 20.08
Rudy Gay PPG 20.0 RPG 6.10 APG 1.8 EFF + 18.27
Rudy Gay is the player that the Grizzlies are building around now that Gasol is gone.  He is athletic and quick and will be a tough matchup for Pierce to cover.  But experience should trump youth in this one. 

Honorable Mention
Kendrick Perkins   PPG 7.4 RPG 5.90 APG 1.1 EFF + 11.58
Darko Milicic     PPG 7.1 RPG 6.20 APG 0.9 EFF + 10.06
Their numbers are close but Perk has been playing on a different level in his last 4 games.  He has a strength advantage over Milicic but Darko has a height advantage over Perk.  I'll go with strength over height in this matchup. 
Keys to the Game
Bench Play
  This is the second of back to back games and so the starters may be tired.   Even though the Celtics were able to limit the starters' minutes against the Bulls, there still will be some fatigue.   The Celtics will need some production from the bench.  It would be nice to see PJ Brown and Sam get some minutes in this one and hopefully Powe, Baby, House and Posey are up to the task. 

Defense  Sometimes when teams get tired, they slack off on defense.   It is very simple. When the Celtics play tough defense they win.  When they don't play defense, they lose.  The Grizzlies have players who can hit the three and some who can score inside so the Celtics need to defend both the paint and the perimeter.

Be Aggressive  The Celtics need to be aggressive on the boards,  going after loose balls, and taking it to the hoop.  They shouldn't settle for jumpers because when teams are tired, jumpers usually don't fall.   
As with several recent games,  rust vs fatigue could come into play.  The Grizzlies haven't played since Wednesday and the Celtics played last night.  The Grizzlies could come out a bit rusty after having 3 days off and the Celtics may be a bit fatigued after playing last night and getting into town in the wee hours of the morning.