After a tough loss in Houston on Thursday night, the Celtics try to get an early split on this road trip with a game against the Memphis Grizzlies. The Grizzlies come in on a two-game win streak after slipping a bit over the month of December. This will be a response game for the Celtics after a strange night against the Rockets where Boston played well in many facets of the game, but everything went right for Houston (and mainly James Harden). This should be a good match-up between two defensive teams.
With this Memphis Grizzlies team, you never know what you are going to get. The team’s performance each game flip flops one night to the next. Memphis comes into this contest on a two-game win streak, but yet they are 3-7 over their last ten games. The one guarantee is that their style of play will be slow while having a defense first mentality. The Celtics will need to keep the pace faster on their possessions to make the Grizzlies keep up with the scoring.
One reason the Grizzlies have problems about being consistent comes from their dependence on only a few players for offensive production. Veterans Mike Conley and Marc Gasol and rookie Jaren Jackson Jr. are who the team lives and dies by. The roster is not deep enough to compete if one or more of these players has an off night.
For Boston fans, Jaren Jackson Jr. is the player to watch on this team. Memphis has a young superstar in the making who has outperformed expectations already this season. He is impacting games more and more as head coach J.B. Bickerstaff is finally understanding how to incorporate him into the lineup. Just two games ago, Jackson Jr. scored 27 points and had 9 rebounds on the road against the Lakers. Marcus Morris Sr. and Al Horford are going to have their hands full with him tonight.
The keys to success for the Celtics will be to just stick to their rhythm on offense and turn up the heat just a bit on pace to run the Grizzlies out of FedExForum. Eventually, the Grizzlies will have to rely on their bench players where you have the likes of MarShon Brooks (or is it Dillon Brooks?) and Wayne Selden holding the fort down. Gordon Hayward and Jaylen Brown should have a field day against these Memphis reserves. It will be important to win those minutes at the close of the first three quarters, so it will not have to be a close game in the final minutes of the game.
The list of injuries for the Grizzlies is much shorter than it has been for some time now. Both Dillon Brooks and the newly acquired Joakim Noah are probable to play in this one. The only scratch will be Chandler Parsons who has had injury after injury since signing his huge deal with Memphis. Tonight, he will be a healthy scratch as they are letting him rest calling it “injury management.”
The Celtics will only be without Aron Baynes once again as he will not be back for another few weeks recovering from surgery to his hand. Their starting lineup will be the same as the game against Houston.
With Memphis, you never know what you are going to get, so it will be important for the Celtics to jump on this team early and make them play the Celtics game. The FedExForum crowd is an underrated one, and the Grizzlies always play better in front of it. These tough road games are the ones which this team needs to win to prove they are championship material.
PG – Kyrie Irving – Mike Conley
SG – Marcus Smart – Garrett Temple
SF – Jayson Tatum – Kyle Anderson
PF – Marcus Morris Sr. – Jaren Jackson Jr.
C – Al Horford – Marc Gasol
Boston – Aron Baynes (Out, Hand)
Memphis – Chandler Parsons (Out, “Return from injury management”); Dillon Brooks (Probable, Knee); Joakim Noah (Probable, Heel)
How To Watch
Time – 8:00 EST
TV – NBC Sports Boston