Wednesday, March 23, 2011
Game 70: Celtics vs. Grizzlies
By Greg Payne
at TD Garden, 7:30 p.m. | CSN, WEEI (850 AM)
||(50-19, 29-6 home)
||-- vs. --
|| (39-32, 14-22 away)
PAYNE'S THREE THINGS TO WATCH
GAME PREVIEW (via Stats Inc.)
- TA's Return: Tony Allen, who elected to sign with the Memphis Grizzlies instead of re-signing with the Celtics last summer, will make his first appearance in TD Garden since joining his new squad. Allen, who's currently starting at the two-guard spot for Memphis with the injured Rudy Gay out of the lineup, is averaging 8.3 points, 2.5 rebounds, 1.3 assists and 1.2 turnovers in 19.2 minutes per game this season and currently boasts a field goal percentage of exactly 50 percent. Allen will most likely spend time defending both Ray Allen and Paul Pierce Wednesday -- two players he knows well.
- Big Man Battle: Grizzlies power forward Zach Randolph continues to somehow fly under the NBA radar, despite his season averages of 20.2 points and 12.6 rebounds. He'll go toe-to-toe with Kevin Garnett Wednesday, in what should be another classic matchup of offense versus defense. Garnett was able to help hold another talented big man -- New York's Amare Stoudemire -- to just 16 points overall on 7-of-15 shooting, and a whopping zero points in the fourth quarter on Monday ((Stoudemire is averaging 25.9 points per game this season). Will Randolph have better success against the Big Ticket Wednesday?
- No More Comebacks: As thrilling as coming back from 15-point deficits in back-to-back games has been, the Celtics can no longer employ the catch-up model the way they have in their last two contests. Rather than come out slow and timid (particularly on defense) in the opening half Wednesday, the Celtics need to carry over their style of play from the second half against the Knicks on Monday. At halftime of that game, Celtics coach Doc Rivers hinted that his team was playing "soft," -- a statement that sparked life into his troops. Will it take another halftime speech from Rivers to get the Celtics' heads where they need to be, or will they understand that that type of energy and aggressiveness that was on display in the second half against New York is expected from them all the time?
While the Memphis Grizzlies are battling for one of the final playoff spots in the Western Conference, their next two games will have major implications in the East.
The Grizzlies begin a two-game trip against one of the East's best Wednesday night when they take on the Boston Celtics.
Memphis (39-32) is in eighth place in the West as it starts a road trip in which it will probably be happy to win one game. The Grizzlies visit Chicago on Friday, and the Bulls and Celtics (50-19) are in a tight race for the No. 1 seed in the East.
"We can't lower our heads and say: 'We've got to play two of the best teams coming up on the road,' and be down about it," guard Mike Conley said. "We've got to take the challenge and take it head on."
Boston will be seeking its third season sweep of Memphis in the last four seasons. The Celtics won 116-110 in overtime Nov. 13 behind Paul Pierce's 28 points and Rajon Rondo's 17 assists.
Memphis was led by Rudy Gay's 22 points. The club announced Tuesday that Gay will miss the rest of the season since surgery has been recommended for an injured left shoulder that has kept him out of action since Feb. 22.
The Grizzlies are 8-6 in Gay's absence, winning their second straight 103-85 over Utah on Monday. Zach Randolph had 19 points and 13 boards while Conley had 11 points and 11 assists.
"Each game is a playoff game for us," Randolph said. "We're trying to get there. We're in the last spot. We're trying to hold onto it or move up. So it's important every game to come out and be focused."
Read the full preview HERE.