Back-to-back victories over the Chicago Bulls and New York Knicks have ensured Boston Celtics fans had a good weekend, but now, it’s time to get back to reality. On Monday night, the Celtics will face off against the Memphis Grizzlies, who are 7-3 on the season and boast an insane amount of young talent.
Luckily, the Celtics are no slouches themselves and will be entering the contest full of confidence and ready to continue proving their championship credentials — after all, they’re the reigning Eastern Conference champions and boast a (joint) league-leading offensive rating. With that in mind, here are my three tickets to triumph for Monday’s game against the Grizzlies.
Send Memphis to the line
You might be wondering why Blake Griffin is pictured above, and the simple answer is, he’s somebody you can happily put out there to absorb contact and earn foul calls. The Grizzlies are the worst free-throw shooting team in the NBA, and given the amount of slashing talent they have at their disposal (I’m looking at you, Ja Morant) forcing them to beat you from the charity stripe could be the best bet.
Of course, you don’t want your stars getting into foul trouble, and you certainly don’t want the game running all night long, but if you can be strategic with when and who you foul, allowing Memphis to brick shots from the line could be a solid way of messing with their rhythm and chemistry on the night.
The Grizzlies are a well-coached team, so finding little advantages such as this could be the difference between grabbing the W or embracing the L.
Defend the corners
The Grizzlies are sitting in 11th place for their shooting percentage from the corner three, and while that’s not an elite weapon for them, the Celtics are 29th in the league when defending that shot — so tonight might be the time to shut up shop.
I get it, you’re weakside low man has to make a decision when a drive occurs, and usually, that’s to rotate over and help. I also get that Boston ranks 2nd in the league for limiting opponents shooting from the corners. But when you’re against elite slashers like Morant, you might find those corners suddenly become a prime drive and dish target.
If the Celtics want to get a positive result from tonight’s game, limiting the corners could be a primary way to make that happen — especially if Morant is feeling himself as a playmaker.
Hauser ‘bout more time for Sam!?
He’s earned it, right? Draining his threes, showing he can attack close-outs, and hustling his butt off on defense — Hauser is quickly becoming a fan favorite off the bench, and for good reason!
Memphis is 13th in defending three-point shot attempts, and 26th in limiting their frequency, which means Hauser could have an absolute field day if given the opportunity, especially if some plays are run for him. In his first 9 games this season, Hauser is shooting an absurd 54.8% from 3 on 3.4 attempts per game, and with that sort of success rate, having him on the court gives you some incredible floor spacing for your slashers to go right at opposing defenses.
Hauser is also in a unique position where his shooting ability hasn’t started to garner the correct amount of defensive attention yet, meaning Joe Mazzulla can use him as a screener before asking him to pop out on the perimeter for an easy catch-and-shoot opportunity like the one below.
As we can see in the above play, Hauser sets a double rip screen (a back screen followed by another back screen) before popping onto the perimeter for an easy bucket — so, while defenses keep sleeping on his shooting ability, Mazzulla and the coaching staff should keep taking advantage.
Over the past few games, we’ve seen the Celtics show some serious improvements on the defensive end while finding a rhythm on offense. Suddenly, we’re starting to see signs of the championship-caliber roster we all knew Boston had at its disposal, and on Monday night, we can see that roster in action against a genuine Western Conference force in the Grizzlies.
Of course, we would like to see the Celtics nab another victory, but the important thing is seeing how the team holds up against a battle-tested roster that they only face twice a year. I’m predicting another big Malcolm Brogdon night and a thirty-piece from Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown.