The Eastern Conference’s second seed was up for grabs this afternoon, as the Milwaukee Bucks sat their starters and lost a blowout to the Indiana Pacers. The opportunity was not lost on the Celtics, who rolled with their whole healthy rotation and — with an eye on the 76ers-Pistons game — played for the win.
And win they did, as the Celtics sent the Memphis Grizzlies packing in a handy 29-point blowout, 139-110, to officially claim the second seed in the Eastern Conference Playoffs. After languishing at a record of 18-21 midway through the season, the Celtics completed one of the most remarkable runs in franchise history to soar through the East standings and finish their regular season at 51-31.
Jayson Tatum closed out his dynamic season with an exclamation point, leading all scorers with 31 points and connecting on six three-pointers. Jaylen Brown added on 18 points of his own in just 23 minutes, and the Celtics comfortably fended off a Grizzlies team that rested most of their regular rotation. Memphis’ John Konchar racked up a triple-double with 17-points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists.
Tatum took command of the proceedings as play began, scoring 14 points in his first nine minutes of play to get the Celtics rolling. Locked into the two-seed in the West, the Grizzlies sat most of their regular rotation, but with as deep as the Memphis roster is, they still managed to put up a fight. Despite just 32% shooting from the field, the Grizzlies hung within single digits, exploiting some sloppy Celtic passing en route to five early steals. Boston entered the second quarter with a 32-25 lead.
Ahead by about three minutes of in-game time, the Sixers hit halftime in a dogfight against Detroit, clinging to just a two-point lead, 62-60, behind an 18-point outburst from guard Shake Milton. The Celtics, meanwhile, began to create some separation in their own second quarter, rattling off a 15-3 run to solidify their lead.
The run came despite sizable disparities in both turnovers and free throws, as the Celtics were uncharacteristically wild with the ball, coughing up 11 turnovers, and recorded seven free throw attempts against Memphis’ 18. The Grizzlies converted on just 55% of those freebies, though, and continued to languish around 32% shooting from the field. The Celtics piled up 40 points in the second quarter, punctuated by a four-point play from Tatum, and entered the halftime break with a 72-49 lead.
The Grizzlies weren’t content to roll over despite the sizeable halftime deficit. They kicked off the second half with energy, trading buckets with the Celtics to keep the score differential static, though they failed to gain much ground. Meanwhile, the Sixers briefly fell behind Detroit on the scoreboard, but rallied to close out the third quarter with a narrow lead, 93-88.
The result of the Sixers-Pistons game ultimately lost importance, however. As the Grizzlies struggled to make inroads on the Boston advantage, the Celtics closed out the third quarter with a 25-point edge, 104-79, and looked to be completely in control of their own fate in the Eastern Conference. With play beginning in the fourth, Ime Udoka emptied the Boston bench, and the reserves rewarded him with a quick 8-2 run to push the Celtics lead north of 30 points. The bench mob would carry the Boston across the finish line.
That will do it for the 2021-22 Boston Celtics regular season. The die has been cast: finishing as the second seed in the Eastern Conference, the Celtics will now look forward to a first-round matchup against the winner of the 7/8 game of the play-in tournament. They’ll find out their first-round matchup on Tuesday evening, as the favored Brooklyn Nets and upstart-but-injured Cleveland Cavaliers will face off at 7 PM EST on TNT.
For more postgame coverage of Boston’s regular season conclusion, tune into the Garden Report Postgame Show LIVE on CLNS Media right after the game. Join A Sherrod Blakely, Bobby Manning, Josue Pavon, Jimmy Toscano and host John Zannis for a full breakdown.