Coming off a two game series in Indiana, the Celtics are back at home to host the Memphis Grizzlies. The Celtics were 2-0 vs the Grizzlies last season and have won 9 straight against them. Overall the Celtics are 30-18 overall vs the Grizzlies. They will likely have one more meeting in the second half of the season but that schedule hasn’t been released yet.
The Grizzlies are coming off a win over the Brooklyn Nets but it was a costly win. Ja Morant left the game late in the 2nd quarter when he rolled his ankle and will likely miss this game. Tyus Jones finished the game at the point after Morant went down and will likely get the start in this one. The Celtics have started the same 5 players in all 4 games so far and will likely start them again in this game.
The Celtics may be playing several young players, but the Grizzlies are the 2nd youngest team in the league with an average age of 24.3, second only to the Timberwolves with an average age of 23.9. The Celtics are playing on the second night of back to back games after a tough-fought win over the Pacers in Indiana. The Grizzlies last played on Monday when they beat the Nets in OT.
Both of these teams will be short handed for this game. The Celtics will be without Kemba Walker (knee) and Romeo Langford (wrist), and Tacko Fall (eye) is questionable. Javonte Green will also miss the game due to Covid 19 protocols. Tristan Thompson is out for hamstring recovery. Also Jayson Tatum is questionable with a sprained left thumb.
I’m not sure who will get the start for Thompson or for Tatum, should he also be out. I’m going to guess Robert Williams will start in place of Thompson and if Tatum is out, Semi may get the call or they may start Teague at the point and move Smart and Brown up a spot.
The Grizzlies were short handed before Morant went down with the ankle injury and will be even more so now. Xavier Tillman (knee), Jontay Porter (knee), Justise Winslow (hip), Jaren Jackson, Jr (knee) and Killian Tillie (hamstring) are all out. DeAnthony Melton is not with the team due to covid protocols.
Probable Celtics Starters
Robert Williams III
Romeo Langford (wrist) out
Kemba Walker (knee) out
Tacko Fall (eye) questionable
Tristan Thompson (hamstring recovery) out
Javonte Green (Covid 19 protocols)
Jayson Tatum (thumb) questionable
Probable Grizzlies Starters
Ja Morant (ankle) out
Xavier Tillman (knee) out
Killian Tillie (hamstring) out
Jontay Porter (knee) out
Justise Winslow (hip) out
Jaren Jackson, Jr (knee) out
DeAnthony Melton (covid) not with team
Jayson Tatum vs Dillon Brooks
Brooks is averaging 19.7 points, 4.3 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game. With Morant out, Brooks will have to step up and it will be up to the Celtics to keep him from doing so. Tatum played 40 minutes against the Pacers on Tuesday and is listed at questionable for this game and so it may be another Celtics who will be tasked with slowing down Brooks.
Robert Williams vs Kyle Anderson
Anderson is averaging 18.3 points, 10.3 rebounds and 2.0 assists. He is coming off a 20 point, 14 rebound and 2 block game. It will be important to keep Anderson off the boards and out of the paint. I’m not sure who will start in place of Thompson but I’m guessing that Brad will stick with the double bigs and start Robert Williams. With Morant out, they may run more through Anderson and so the Celtics need to be ready for that.
Daniel Theis vs Jonas Valanciunas
Valanciunas is averaging 14 points, 13 rebounds, 3 assists and 1.7 blocks. As with Anderson, the Celtics need to keep Valanciunas out of the paint and off of the boards. The Celtics center rotation will need to play well, especially on defense.
Keys to the Game
Defense - Defense is always a key to winning. I’m not sure why the Celtics’ defense has dropped off so much since last season’s top 4 rating, but it is something they must fix if they hope to be contenders. Celtics are currently 29th in the league with a defensive rating of 116.0. This more than anything else is causing the Celtics struggles. They must get back to playing tough team and individual defense.
Rebound - The Celtics can’t score if they don’t have the ball and to get the ball, they have to grab rebounds. The Celtics are 25th in the league, grabbing just 41.3 rebounds per game. The Grizzlies are 9th, with 48 rebounds per game. The Celtics out-rebounded the Pacers on Tuesday 52-42. They will need that kind of effort on the boards once again in this one.
Move the Ball - The Celtics at times move the ball very well and find the open man but then lapse into old habits and play iso ball and hero ball. When the Celtics play as a team and move the ball, they are tough to beat but when they go away from it, they usually struggle. Each player has to resist the urge to try to do too much and to consistently play team ball.
Play 4 Quarters - The Celtics have tended to let down after the half so far this season. They need to come out of the half with more intensity and more effort and not come out playing sloppy. They have to play hard all 4 quarters and not just 2 or 3.
Trap Game - It would be easy for the Celtics to underestimate the Grizzlies in this one. With the Grizzlies being short handed and Ja Morant out, the Celtics might think that this will be an easy game. But, the Grizzlies will play hard and challenge the Celtics and it would be a mistake to take them for granted.
Back to Back and Injuries - The Celtics are coming off of a tough series against the Pacers and will be playing on the second night of back to back games along with having to travel overnight. The Celtics will be tired and short handed. Hopefully they have enough gas in the tank and enough depth to pull out a win.
Officiating - Officiating is always an X-Factor. Some crews call it tight and some let them play. Some crews will favor the home team and some won’t. The Celtics have to adjust to the way the game is being called.