Against the league’s longest tenured duo in Marc Gasol and Mike Conley Jr., the Boston Celtics were able to walk away with the victory in a 112-103 win against the Memphis Grizzlies. Kyrie Irving led the team with 26 points, and Marcus Morris was right behind him with 22.
The first quarter was punctuated by an extremely Jayson Tatum highlight. On a scale from one to Jayson Tatum, this almost broke the scale:
Tatum with the MONSTER putback! pic.twitter.com/pfFeOrN7DT— Boston Celtics (@celtics) December 30, 2018
The first quarter offered plenty of fun moments. Memphis is a good defensive team, so it was refreshing to see the Celtics get some good looks off. In particular, both Jaylen Brown and Gordon Hayward had some good finishes through contact that should function as a bright spot amid what some might consider a down period for both players.
At the end of the first quarter, the Celtics led 29-26 at the end of the first behind 8 points from Marcus Morris and 7 from Jayson Tatum. Jaylen Brown ended the quarter in style with a smooth fadeaway out of the mid-post:
The start of the second quarter was much less favorable for Boston, with Dillon Brooks providing plenty of issues all over the court. Dillon, not MarShon Brooks, in case you’re reading this Phoenix. Brooks posted 13 points in just 11 minutes in the first half, and he finished with 19 points off the bench. The Celtics fell behind by double digits as the second quarter wore on behind a 12-0 run by the Grizzlies. Hayward snapped that run with a timely triple toward the end of the quarter, but the Celtics still found themselves in a 64-47 hole at the half.
For a Memphis team that’s 29th in the league in scoring, Boston’s defense giving up 64 points in the first half was, in fact, not good.
The Grizzlies’ defense was solid as usual, and it seemed like they positioned themselves perfectly to expose Boston’s spacing to force turnovers. On the other end, Boston’s defense looked like Swiss cheese. If you want your defense to look like any kind of cheese, Provolone or Colby Jack might be better options. Please don’t boo me; I’m trying to delete that sentence as we speak.
Mike Conley Jr. was fantastic for Memphis as was his longtime partner Marc Gasol. Conley Jr. posted 26 points, 5 rebounds and 6 assists. Gasol chipped in with 15 points and 10 assists of his own while Jaren Jackson Jr. added 15 points of his own.
The run that we all expected to come came around halfway through the third quarter behind a couple of high-effort plays by Marcus Smart and some timely scoring from Kyrie Irving. After a slow start, Irving came to life, giving it to the Grizzlies inside and out. Defensively, Smart and Tatum made their impact felt with 3 and 4 steals, respectively.
Smart: “I’ll take that.”— Boston Celtics (@celtics) December 30, 2018
Irving: “I’ll make that." pic.twitter.com/x7nPCCLE7W
11-4 was the run that cut a 19-point lead to just an 87-79 deficit through 3 quarters. The fourth quarter was thankfully much better than the second quarter. Riding a 12-1 run, the Celtics continued to push their comeback efforts to take the lead at the halfway mark of the final quarter. Guerschon Yabusele was massive in this stretch, providing tremendous value while Al Horford was on the bench with solid defense, rebounding and the occasional points contribution.
Down the stretch, this game evolved into an all-out brawl with each team trading clutch buckets. Free basketball is beautiful basketball. Marcus Morris, Gordon Hayward (14 points, 55% shooting), Irving and Al Horford (18 points, a pair of daggers) all got in on the clutch-time fun.
Behind that impressive defensive sequence by Smart and Irving and after going down 19 points in a game reminiscent of the Celtics of yesteryear, Boston came away with the 112-103 victory.
The Celtics are back in action against the San Antonio Spurs Monday night at 7PM EST in San Antonio.