The Celtics return home from a 2 game road trip to take on the Memphis Grizzlies in the second and final meeting between these two teams. The Celtics have pulled to within 1/2 game of the Raptors, who are hosting the Pistons, for the top spot in the East. The Grizzlies started off strong, but injuries have derailed their season and they are now 1.5 games behind the Suns for the worst record in the West.
The Celtics are 6-4 in their last 10 games and have won their last 2 games. They are 21-11 at home and 15-6 vs Western Conference teams. The Grizzlies are 1-9 in their last 10 games and have lost 9 straight games. They are 3-18 vs the East and 0-9 on the road in the East. They have lost 20 of their last 22 road games.
The Grizzlies have been hard hit by injuries and will be missing 4 players for this game. Mike Conley (heel), Tyreke Evans (ribs), Chandler Parsons (illness) and Wayne Seldon (knee) are all listed as out. Marc Gasol sat out Saturday’s game in Miami but is expected to play in this one. I’m listing the starting lineup they have in their game notes.
Aron Baynes left the Pistons game on Friday with a sprained elbow and he missed Saturday’s game against the Knicks. He is listed as questionable for this game. Daniel Theis started in place of Baynes on Saturday and I’ve put him in the starting five for this game but we won’t know for sure until just before game time.
Probable Celtics Starters
Gordon Hayward (ankle) out
Aron Baynes (elbow) questionable
Guerschon Yabusele (Red Claws) doubtful
Two Way Players
Probable Grizzlies Starters
Mike Conley (heel) out
Wayne Selden Jr (knee) out
Chandler Parsons (illness) out
Tyreke Evans (rib) out
Two Way Players
Daniel Theis vs Marc Gasol
Gasol is averaging 17.7 points, 8.4 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 1.5 blocks. Gasol is the Grizzlies’ best player. He had 30 points and 10 rebounds in the first game between these two teams. He is tough to cover and Theis (or Baynes, or whoever) will need to stay with him to keep him from having a big game.
Al Horford vs JaMychal Green
Green is averaging 10.1 points, 7.7 rebounds and 1.2 assists per game. Horford will need to keep him out of the paint and off of the boards.
Jaylen Brown vs Dillon Brooks
This is a matchup of Rising Stars. Brooks played for the World team against Brown’s USA team in the Rising Stars game. He is averaging 9.0 points, 3.1 rebounds, and 1.4 assists.
Keys to the Game
Defense - Defense is always key to getting a win. The Celtics had been letting their defense slip before the All Star break but since coming back (and getting Marcus Smart back), they have picked up their defense. The Grizzlies are 20th with a defensive rating of 107.0 while the Celtics remain first with a defensive rating of 101.0. The Celtics must continue to make defense a priority.
Play 48 Minutes - The Celtics can’t just run half the game. They have to run for the entire game. They also can’t let up down the stretch and have to focus especially at the end of the game. The Celtics have had a tendency to get a lead and then let up or to start off slowly and dig a hole they have to climb out of. The Celtics have to play hard from the opening tip to the final buzzer. In the two games since the break, they have played well throughout and they have to continue playing all 48 minutes in this game.
Rebound - Rebounding takes effort and desire and the Celtics will need both to get win the rebounding battle against the Grizzlies. The Celtics have to put more effort into crashing the boards than the Grizzlies do, because they can’t score if they don’t have the ball.
Be Aggressive - The Celtics need to play hard and be the more aggressive team. They have to go after rebounds, loose balls, and 50/50 balls. They have to be aggressive on defense and in getting to the basket. They have to be the team that works harder and wants it more. The Celtics must match the Grizzlies’ effort and be the team that wants it more.
Take Care of the Ball - The Celtics have to take care of the ball, make smart passes, and limit their turnovers. The Grizzlies average 16.4 points off of turnovers and the Celtics don’t want to give them extra points by getting careless with the ball.
Home Court - After a two games on the road, the Celtics are back at home. The Celtics need to use the energy of the crowd to give them a boost to establish home court dominance as they head down the stretch into the playoffs. The Grizzlies haven’t played well on the road and the Celtics need to keep it that way.
Underestimating the Opponent - The biggest mistake the Celtics can make is to underestimate an opponent. The Grizzlies are on a big losing streak and will be desperate for a win. The front office and even the coach may be tanking, but players don’t tank. They are going to play hard and so the Celtics need to play harder and not allow them to get any confidence in the game. The Celtics can’t come into this game expecting an easy win because of the Grizzlies’ losing streak and injuries. They have to come in with the mindset that they have to work their hardest to defeat a wounded bear.