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Skywalking in Memphis: 10 Takeaways from Celtics-Grizzlies

Boston looked like themselves again during this victory in Memphis

Boston Celtics v Memphis Grizzlies Photo by Justin Ford/Getty Images

Note: No clips today. The system isn’t working. Sorry!

1. This was another good win for the Boston Celtics. The Memphis Grizzlies are a good team and they were at home. Despite a messy close to the third and fourth quarters, Boston was mostly in control for large portions of the game.

Most importantly, the Celtics flashed some of their hallmark defense in the fourth quarter. Boston did a good job holding Memphis in check throughout the final period to lock down the win.

2. Joe Mazzulla has made a slight tweak in the last couple of games to his defensive scheme. He’s started using Jayson Tatum more in the “roamer” role that Rob Williams played so perfectly last season. Tatum is nominally “guarding” the weakest offensive threat on the floor, but he’s really roaming around the paint as a help defender.

In this game, that meant Tatum was guarding Brandon Clarke most of the time. The added benefit against Memphis was that guarding Clarke kept Tatum close to the rim. With Tatum averaging a career-high 1.5 blocks per game, it’s not a bad choice by Mazzulla to deploy him in a different way from being a straight-up defender.

3. Marcus Smart has been outstanding the last two games. In wins over the Knicks and Grizzlies, Smart has averaged 14 points, 11.5 assists and 4.5 rebounds per game. He’s also shot 11-of-20 from the floor, including 5-of-11 on three-pointers.

The back-to-back games of double-digit assists were the first time Smart has achieved that marker in his nine-year career. He also played some really good defense down the stretch on both Ja Morant and Desmond Bane. After an uneven start to the season, Smart has more than found his footing.

4. Jaylen Brown had a miserable start to the game. He seemed out of rhythm and out of control. But in the fourth quarter, Brown picked himself up and made several difference-making plays.

It was good to see Brown shake off his slump and stick with it. Too often in the past, if Brown was in a funk, he didn’t break out of it until the next game.

5. Grant Williams got the start, as Joe Mazzulla tweaked his lineup and put Derrick White on the bench. Mazzulla wanted to go a bit bigger to keep Memphis off the offensive boards, where they thrive. The change (and Steven Adams being out for the Grizzlies) worked, as Memphis had just eight offensive rebounds on the night.

As for Williams, he played a pretty impactful game, considering he took zero shots from the field. Williams was very good defensively, including plays where he was asked to defend Ja Morant and Desmond Bane in isolation. Williams also ran for and demanded the ball late in the fourth quarter. He calmly sank both free throws to help keep the Grizzlies at bay.

6. Late in the fourth quarter, on a scramble for a loose ball, Ja Morant dove and landed into the back of Jayson Tatum’s left leg. It was a moment where all Celtics fans collectively said “Oh no!” (Or probably worse!).

Thankfully, Tatum shook it off and stayed in the game. But that was fairly terrifying and not an experience anyone wants to repeat.

7. Speaking of Tatum…he’s going to win the MVP award this season. He’s been outstanding in all facets of the game. The Celtics should be in the mix for one of the better records in the NBA. Everything has been building to this, but with Tatum getting to the line with extreme regularity now, it’s time. This is Tatum’s MVP season.

8. Malcolm Brogdon’s shot was off, as he hit just 3-of-10 from the floor. But Brogdon found other ways to contribute off the bench. He had four assists and surprisingly led the Celtics with 10 rebounds.

Brogdon is a good example for the rest of his Celtics teammates, most of whom are younger than the veteran guard. If your shot isn’t falling, find another way to help the team.

9. Boston has now won three in a row. They’ve gotten on track after a bumpy start. The schedule for the rest of the week should provide chances for the good times to keep rolling.

The Celtics get the Pistons at home on Wednesday night, before a back-to-back set against the Nuggets in Boston, followed by a trip to play the Pistons again, but in Detroit. The Celtics are well aware that the Pistons aren’t to be taken lightly. The last two seasons have featured several battles. And Denver has the reigning MVP in Nikola Jokic.

It’s a tricky spot for the Celtics, but the expectation should be at least to win two-of-three. This is where Boston is at now as a team.

10. It’s Election Day. Get out there and vote! There’s still time if you’re reading this early in the day on Tuesday. Take advantage of your fundamental right as a citizen of the United States and use your voice. No matter where you live, there are tools to research the candidates and the questions to make an informed decision.

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