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Celtics extend winning streak to three after 109-106 win over Grizzlies

Tatum scored 39 in a game the Celtics nearly fumbled away at the free throw line.

Boston Celtics v Memphis Grizzlies Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

On a night with all 30 teams playing, tonight’s Celtics-Grizzlies game — with all due respect to OKC-Detroit — might have been the marquee contest. The Celtics led for most of the fourth quarter and staved off a late Memphis comeback to win 109-106.

Even without the hulking presence of Steven Adams, Joe Mazzulla opted to start the double-big lineup of Grant Williams and Al Horford. Memphis opened with a balanced scoring attack, with each of the five starters scoring on their first five buckets. Conversely, Marcus Smart scored 10 of Boston’s first 12 points. He then had back-to-back highlight-reel assists, the first a one-handed flip to Jaylen Brown, and the second a wraparound bounce pass to Jayson Tatum.

The Grizzlies hit five threes and led 34-28 after the first quarter. After Santi Aldama hit a three to put Memphis up 40-31, the Celtics proceeded to go on a 20-0 run. They scored on each of their first 10 offensive trips to open the second quarter. Their offense was unstoppable, looking like a continuation of Saturday night’s shooting clinic at MSG.

But then they went cold to close the period, not converting on a field goal in the last 3:50. Jake LaRavia and Ja Morant hit a few threes while Dillon Brooks played tenacious defense and got an open court steal that turned into a Brandon Clarke dunk. Boston led 65-54 at halftime.

Tatum scored 19 of his 25 first half points during the second quarter. He only shot 2 of 9 from three, but converted on 7 of 9 free throws. The Celtics hit nine threes, dished out 17 assists, and shot 52 percent from the field while limiting the Grizzlies to 40 percent shooting. But Memphis, who leads the league in offensive rebounding percentage, grabbed seven of them for 13 second chance points.

Morant, shooting 47 percent from deep, hit two early third-quarter threes, but each time Memphis went on a run, Boston responded. Smart had a world-class flop that drew a foul on the screen-setting Clarke then hit a 10-foot jumper on the other end. Horford drilled a three then slammed home an alley oop to put the Celtics up 80-68 at the 5:33 mark.

Then the tides turned. In the last three minutes, the Celtics missed six shots and had two turnovers. A John Konchar three punctuated a 10-0 run that put Memphis up 85-84 going into the fourth quarter.

With the game tied at 90 and 8:42 remaining, Tatum splashed a three, Brown found a driving lane, Smart converted on an and-1, then Tatum hit a floater that put Boston up by 10. Desmond Bane’s dunk with 1:44 left cut the deficit to seven, and although Ja missed consecutive free throws, his three with 41 seconds cut the score to 105-101.

He nearly got a steal on Smart, but instead was called for a foul on Tatum when going for the loose ball. Improbably, Tatum missed both free throws and a Brooks dunk made it a two point game. Grant Williams, who somehow hadn’t scored a point or taken a shot in 37 minutes of play, calmly hit two free throws after getting intentionally fouled, and the Celtics led 107-103 with 15 seconds to play.

The Grizzlies weren’t done. Bane hit a three to cut the deficit to one. But after Tatum hit his free throws, Memphis couldn’t get off a shot with two seconds remaining, and the Celtics won 109-106.

Tatum finished with 39 points on 12 of 25 shooting. Brown had a career-worst seven turnovers but poured in 21 points and 9 rebounds, while Smart added 15 points and 12 assists. Morant finished with 30 points, 9 assists, and 8 rebounds, as Boston handed Memphis its first home loss of the season. The Celtics next play Detroit this Wednesday at the TD Garden.

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