Tea Celtics complete their 3 game road trip with a game against the Grizzlies in Memphis. This is the second and final meeting between these two teams this season. The Celtics won 120-107 in Boston on March 3. Jaylen Brown didn’t play in that game for Boston and Dillon Brooks was out for Memphis, otherwise, both teams were healthy. The Grizzlies were led by Ja Morant with 38 points while the Celtics were led by Jayson Tatum with 37 points.
The Grizzlies are playing on the second night of back to back games with both games at home so they didn’t have to travel. They are 7-6 so far this season in back to back games. The Celtics have had 2 days off since they last played on Thursday and they had to travel to Memphis for the game. These two teams tied the series last season with each team winning at home.
The Grizzlies are locked into the 2nd seed in the West and so winning or losing this game doesn’t matter to their standings. They played hard the night before with their regular starting lineup, including Ja Morant, who had been out for the previous 9 games with a knee injury. I’m expecting the Grizzlies to rest all of their regular rotation players. As I write this, their injury list for this game hasn’t been posted and so I’m just guessing on that and on their starters.
The Celtics have no idea right now whether they will be the 2nd, 3rd, or 4th seed. Boston is playing at Memphis, Detroit is playing at Philadelphia and Milwaukee is playing at Cleveland. We don’t know if those other teams will rest players or go all out to win their games. Detroit and Memphis have nothing to lose or gain as Detroit is out of the playoffs and Memphis is locked into the 2nd seed.
Philadelphia, Milwaukee and Cleveland are all still playing for their final seeding, as is Boston. Milwaukee is currently 2nd while Philadelphia is currently 4th. If the Bucks lose and the Celtics win, the Celtics will move up to 2nd place. If the Bucks and Sixers both win but the Celtics lose, then the Celtics will slide all the way down to 4th place. In any other scenario between these 3 teams, the Celtics will remain in 3rd place.
Chicago is locked into 5th place and Toronto is locked into 5th place. So if the Celtics remain in 3rd place, they will face the Bulls. If they fall to 4th place, they will face the Toronto Raptors. If they climb up to 2nd place, they will play the winner of the 7/8 play in game. Currently, Brooklyn is 7th and Cleveland is 8th with Brooklyn hosting the Pacers and the Cavaliers hosting the Bucks. It’s going to be interesting to see how this all plays out.
The Celtics are currently 3rd in the East and are coming off a shorthanded loss to the Bucks. They are 7-3 in their last 10 games and are 22-18 on the road. They are 17-12 against Western Conference teams. They currently sit 1 game behind 2nd place Milwaukee and 3 games behind first place Miami. They are half a game ahead of 4th place Philadelphia. The Bucks game should be over by the time the Celtics play but the Sixers play at the same time as the Celtics.
As of Saturday night, the Celtics should mostly be healthy with just Robert Williams (knee) and Nick Stauskas (ankle) listed as out for this game. Juwan Morgan will be signed to fill the final roster spot after his 10 day contract expired. No players are listed as out for rest and so the Celtics can choose to go all out to win this game. The Grizzlies have 4 players listed as questionable for this game: Jarrett Culver (knee), Tyrell Terry (foot), Killian Tillie (knee) and Santi Aldama (illness). I’d be very surprised to see them play any of their starters or main rotation players in this one.
Likely Celtics Starters
Robert Williams (knee) out
Nick Stauskas (ankle) out
Possible Grizzlies Starters (if they remain their regular starters)
Jarrett Culver (knee) likely
Tyrell Terry (foot) out
Killian Tillie (knee) out
Santi Aldama (illness) probable
Brandon Clarke (rest) questionable
Ja Morant (injury maintenance) out
Tyus Jones (rest) out
Desmond Bane (rest) questionable
Dillon Brooks (rest) out
Steven Adams (rest) out
Jaren Jackson, Jr. (rest) out
Two Way Players
I can’t begin to figure out matchups because the Grizzlies are sitting pretty much all of their regulars and it’s just a guess as to who is starting where. I think the biggest matchup will be the Celtics against themselves. Will they go all out and try to win? Will they sit players also now that they know that Memphis is resting most of theirs? Will they let up thinking they can win without trying and get blindsided by some young players who are playing hard to get noticed? It’s going to be interesting.
Keys to the Game
Defense – Whether it’s the first game of the season or the last, defense is always a key to winning. The Celtics have established an identity as a tough defensive team. They are 1st in the league with a defensive rating of 106.2. The Grizzlies are a good defensive team as well with a defensive rating of 108.6 (5th). The Celtics defense has slipped some without Robert Williams but they can still play very good defense. The Celtics must play lock down defense for 48 minutes against the Grizzlies. The Grizzlies are 25th with just 11.4 made 3’s per game. However, they are 1st with 57.6 points in the paint and 1st with 17.6 fast break points. The Celtics need to especially defend the paint where the Grizzlies are very dangerous.
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 5th in the league, grabbing 45.9 rebounds per game but the Grizzlies are 1st, with 49.2 rebounds per game. The Grizzlies are also 1st with 18.6 second chance points per game. Much of rebounding is effort and hustle and the Celtics need to put out more effort and hustle than the Grizzlies in order to beat them to rebounds.
Let’s Be Physical – The Celtics need to be the most aggressive team. They have to go after every loose ball, every rebound and play harder than the Grizzlies on every possession. They have to be more aggressive on defense, and on getting to the basket. They have to be the team that plays harder and that wants the game more. If the Celtics are the more aggressive team, they will likely get the benefit of the calls and they will control the pace of the game. The Grizzlies play fast and play hard and the Celtics have to match that energy if they want to win this game.
Stay Focused – The Celtics have to stay focused on taking care of the ball. The Celtics tend to have times when they turn the ball over way too much. They have to focus on making crisp passes and on careful ball handling. The Grizzlies are 4th with 18.3 points off turnovers per game. If they lose focus and turn the ball over, the Grizzlies will make them pay. They also need to focus on taking good shots and on hitting those shots. They need to stay focused on defense and play the kind of smothering lock down defense that has gotten them to the third seed in the East. The Celtics must stay focused and take care of the ball, focus on taking and making good shots, and focus on playing tough team defense.
Who’s Playing and Seeding – Which team(s) rest players because it’s the final game and which teams decide to try to land in a particular seed are going to be x-factors for this game. Will the Grizzlies remain their players? Will the Bucks go for the win or rest their players? Will the Celtics remain any players? Will Philadelphia go for the win or will they rest their starters? Teams may sit players for rest and concede a loss, or they may play all of their players and play hard for a win. It’s going to be a very interesting day of games.
officiating – Officiating is always an x-factor. Some officials call the game tight and call every little bit of contact. Others let them play and allow both teams to be physical. Some refs call it one sided for one team while others call it even. Some refs give the home team the benefit of the calls while others favor the road team or favor neither. The Celtics have to concentrate on playing their game and not allow bad calls and no calls to take away from their focus on playing.