It’s hard to believe the Celtics trailed the Grizzlies after 18 minutes. Dillon Brooks’ three boosted Memphis to a 42-35 advantage and forced the Celtics to tighten up, cut off passing lanes and prevent their opponent from reaching the interior.
A recent film session revealed the defensive intensity on the wings Boston needs to power wins like the Lakers and Grizzlies ones. Turnovers and transition, along with assisting their bigs inside, allowed them to take 34 and 38-point leads against those two teams in back-to-back games.
The Celtics’ 23-2 run before half, with Marcus Smart flipping it behind his back to Javonte Green inside and Daniel Theis spacing the floor, opened another Gino night that reminded Stevens’ group about their ceiling.
Brad Stevens: “Our best rim defense is keeping the ball away from it.”
The Celtics needed to guard Ja Morant tightly, watch his mock cuts while guarding the Grizzlies’ wings with pressure. The intensity led to transition opportunities where this group is most comfortable. That and the ball whipping around the court for 32 assists on 45 made buckets. Stevens expects Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum to travel after their respective lower-body injuries. Brown missed Wednesday’s game with a right ankle sprain and Tatum left with a sprained groin in the third quarter.
Gordon Hayward: “We were able to get out and run ... that’s when we’re really lethal.”
Kemba Walker: “We have so many threats on the perimeter ... when it’s not my night, it’s not my night.”
Walker has a clear favorite teammate: Marcus Smart. He awaits his own no-look pass. In the meantime, efforts like Smart’s recent surge — 12 points and six assists against the Grizzlies — helps ease Walker through his own struggles. He shot 2-for-9, with a pair of threes midway through the third quarter. “It was about time.”