Boston Celtics: Memphis Grizzlies

Leftovers: Home unsweet home

November, 28, 2013
BOSTON -- Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens isn't certain why his team's record at home this season (2-5) isn't better. But he's certain it has nothing to do with the level of support from the fans, even as Boston navigates this rocky transition process.

"It’s certainly not the atmosphere; the atmosphere has been great," Stevens said after a feverish fourth-quarter rally came up short in a 100-93 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday night. "Of all the atmospheres I’ve been in in the NBA, and I haven’t been here very long, this is by far my favorite.

"With the passion and how loud the fans are, [Wednesday's game] was outstanding. But I guess the one thing I will say is I think the last three teams we’ve played in here are awfully good basketball teams, and I can’t think back before Indiana and Portland, to be honest. I forget who we played before that. At the end of the day, we need to get better at home, we need to get better on the road, we need to become a better basketball team."

Boston owns wins over Utah and Orlando at home, while falling to Memphis, Milwaukee, Charlotte, Portland, and Indiana. For whatever reason, Boston has been better away from TD Garden posting a 4-5 record on the road.

"We have an away home advantage, if that makes any sense," quipped second-year forward Jared Sullinger. "We gotta win more at home, that is what’s going to get us into the playoffs. Winning on the road and constantly battling at home."

Before you dive into your own first plate on Turkey Day, some additional leftovers from Wednesday's game:
  • INJURY BUG BITES LEE: We'll get a better idea of Courtney Lee's injury timetable in the coming days, but you can't help but feel for the sixth-year guard. Lee was one of Boston's most efficient scorers this season, averaging 7.6 points on 51 percent shooting over 16.9 minutes per game. He's averaging 1.043 points per possession, according to Synergy Sports data (the only Boston player above 1 point per play, ranking him in the 87th percentile among all league players). Lee injured an ankle last year and struggled to get back into the rotation. He had separated himself a bit his year, earning consistent second-unit minutes. If he misses time, you have to wonder if it opens a door for MarShon Brooks to get some floor time.

  • NICE RING TO IT: One part of the sprawling mural that decorates the TD Garden hallway outside Boston's locker room is a group photo of the 2008 title team, which includes an emphatic Tony Allen bookending one side. Asked where he keeps his championship ring, Allen wouldn't divulge, joking, "I can’t tell you, somebody might go try to find it." Allen said he toyed with the idea of bringing out the ring as motivation to his team when they were in the Western Conference finals last season. "I had the mindset that I was going to bring it out, had we made it to the [NBA] Finals," said Allen. "But that didn’t happen. So hopefully we make it back to where we were and I’ll bring it out a little earlier, give guys some motivation."

  • LINE OF THE NIGHT: Asked if he felt Zach Randolph and Jared Sullinger were similar as undersized big men, Stevens quipped, "I don’t know that either of them I would characterize as 'undersized,' even though they are a little bit shorter."

  • A LITTLE HELP HERE: The Celtics finished with only 14 assists on 38 made baskets, one of their lowest assists percentages of the season. Asked about the low total, Stevens first deadpanned, "That's really bad," then noted how Boston only had half that number at one point in the fourth quarter. "So I do think this: They shut down the passing lanes pretty well, we missed a few that we normally would make, especially around the rim, but we kept the ball on the side of the floor too much," said Stevens. "And, boy, if you do that against them, that’s hard, on one side of the floor. Allen’s tough now. That guy can guard and guard and guard. He’s one of the best that we’ve played against in my early tenure here."

Freeze Frame: Tank? No Thanks

November, 28, 2013
Headlines after the Memphis Grizzlies defeated the Boston Celtics on Wednesday night:

Sullinger won't give in

November, 28, 2013
BOSTON -- Jared Sullinger put the Boston Celtics on his surgically repaired back in the fourth quarter of Wednesday's visit from the Memphis Grizzlies and tried to carry them on a spirited (yet failed) comeback.

AP Photo/Michael DwyerJared Sullinger scored 17 fourth-quarter points, but the Celtics couldn't catch the Grizzlies.
Sullinger scored 17 fourth-quarter points on 7-of-10 shooting, while grabbing six rebounds and handing out two assists in 10 minutes of court time. Boston surged within three in the final seconds, but Memphis made its free throws to escape with a 100-93 triumph.

Inside the Celtics' locker room, Sullinger lamented his team's slow start and its overall struggles on its home floor this season. Boston is now 2-5 at TD Garden.

"We've got to win more at home, that is what's going to get us into the playoffs," Sullinger said.

Playoffs?! (full Jim Mora voice here). You kidding me?

To some, Wednesday's game was just about the perfect script for the Celtics. Despite a slow start, Boston scrapped its way back from a 19-point first-half deficit, surged within a possession in the final minute, and, most importantly, lost.

With that, Boston's brief two-game winning streak was snapped and the Celtics fell to 6-11 on the season. Only six teams in the league have a worse winning percentage at the moment and Boston projects as a lottery team (despite the fact that the team remains just a single game out of the playoffs in a dilapidated Eastern Conference).

Sullinger has been downright defiant toward those who believe the Celtics would be better off losing games this season. He's argued that there's more than enough talent for this team to make a playoff push, even if the pundits give the team zero chance to succeed.

Given the state of the East, it's hard to deny Sullinger's playoff aspirations, especially as Boston keeps its head above water while navigating a brutal November schedule without All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo.

In fact, maybe the biggest thing working against those in Tank Nation is Sullinger himself. With each game, his ceiling rises a little bit more and he further asserts himself as Boston's best two-way player.

(Read full post)

Rapid Reaction: Grizzlies 100, C's 93

November, 27, 2013
BOSTON -- Rapid reaction after the Memphis Grizzlies defeated the Boston Celtics 100-93 on Wednesday night at TD Garden:

The Celtics spent nearly the entire game playing catch-up and trailed by as much as 19 in the first half. Despite surging within three in the final moments of a furious fourth quarter, Boston was foiled by Memphis at the finish line. Jared Sullinger turned in 23 points on 10-of-18 shooting to go along with 12 rebounds over 35 minutes. Jeff Green scored a game-high 26 points for Boston, while Brandon Bass grabbed a team-high 13 rebounds (to go along with a team-best four blocks). Jerryd Bayless, who torched Boston in the first meeting this season, was at it again. He registered 22 points (despite hitting only one 3-pointer) to pace five Grizzlies in double figures and made some big free throws to keep Boston at arm's length.

The Celtics dug themselves an early 19-point hole with much of the damage being inflicted late in the first quarter. Boston watched the Grizzlies embark on a 13-0 run during a near-six-minute stretch spanning into the second quarter. Boston missed seven consecutive shots during the stretch while Bayless scored six points as Memphis turned a one-possession game into a 16-point difference less than a minute into the second quarter. The Celtics would make some spirited runs but never got closer than nine until the final 75 seconds. The Celtics never had a chance to tie the game, but kept fighting and Memphis simply made its free throws (25 of 31 overall).

Avery Bradley had an up-and-down night, particularly trying to contain Mike Conley early, but he'll find his way into the highlight reel. First, he had an emphatic two-handed putback dunk (keying a sequence that saw Bass produce a big swat at the other end before Bradley splashed a 3-pointer). Later, Bradley had a chasedown swat on old friend Tony Allen. Bass and Bradley combined for six of Boston's seven blocks.

Gerald Wallace picked up his first technical foul of the season for jawing at the referees after he was whistled for a fourth-quarter foul. It was only the third technical for the Celtics this season (Jordan Crawford owns the other two).

Courtney Lee suffered a left knee sprain in the fourth quarter and did not return. ... Keith Bogans, who had missed time due to illness, was active but both he and MarShon Brooks were healthy DNPs.

The Celtics can find a silver lining in their late rally, though they must fix their lackluster start. Boston watched its two-game winning streak end while falling to the Grizzlies for the second time this season. The Celtics will take Thanksgiving off before hosting the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday night. The second night of a back-to-back looms in Milwaukee on Saturday, but Boston is back home for two more games (vs. Milwaukee and Denver) next week.

Stevens comfy with starters ... for now

November, 27, 2013
BOSTON -- The Boston Celtics will stick with the most recent iteration of their starting five in Jordan Crawford, Avery Bradley, Jeff Green, Brandon Bass and Jared Sullinger. The Celtics have won both games that group has started after Kelly Olynyk sprained his right ankle in a loss to the Indiana Pacers on Friday night.

Is coach Brad Stevens comfortable with that lineup?

"I’m comfortable today. And I think that’s the right way to phrase it," Stevens said, "because I was pretty comfortable coming off the four games that we won earlier. And then we’ve made changes. I feel good about it the way it is right now, but it is small on the frontcourt, so we’re going to have to rebound by committee."

And how might the lineup change once Olynyk is healthy enough to return?

"I haven’t put any thought to it," Stevens said. "Obviously, when he gets back, we’ll cross that bridge when we get there. We’ll see how we’re playing, and we’ll see where he fits and everything else."

A couple of other quick hits from pregame access:
  • BOGANS BACK: Keith Bogans, who has appeared in only two games for a total of 15 minutes, missed a recent string of games due to illness. He's back available against the Grizzlies. Asked about the absence, he offered, "I just had like the flu. Just a cold, that’s it. Ready to go." Told the extended absence had some worried it might be a bigger issue, Bogans said, "No, no, no, no. I’m good to go."

  • NO GASOL, SAME GRIZZLIES: Stevens noted that the Grizzlies haven't changed much without Marc Gasol. "They tweak things, not overhaul, but tweak," Stevens said. "I think the biggest difference from what I can see from the first time we played them is how involved [Zach] Randolph is. You look at their winning streak that they were on, and I think Randolph in wins is like 20 [points] per game, and, in losses, he’s 9 per game. I think that’s obviously a huge factor for them. So he’s a focal point for them, that’s not going to change. [Point guard Mike] Conley’s a focal point for them, that’s not going to change. They run great stuff for their shooters, that’s not going to change. I think they tweaked some of the things that Gasol had, but [Kosta] Koufos is a guy that started a lot of games in this league and played on a really good team last year. He’s an easy guy to plug in."

W2W4: C's vs. Grizzlies (Game 17 of 82)

November, 27, 2013
The Boston Celtics (6-10, 2-4 home) host the Memphis Grizzlies (7-7, 4-3 away) on Wednesday night at TD Garden (7:30 p.m., CSN). Here's what to watch for:

  • COACH'S SCOUTING REPORT: The Celtics already dropped a 95-88 decision in Memphis earlier this month. Asked about the rematch, Celtics coach Brad Stevens said, "First of all, I think they’re playing much better than when they played us the first time, so you have to take that into account. They went on a west coast swing and won and, obviously without [Marc] Gasol, they change a little bit, but they don’t change a lot. [Kosta] Koufus was a guy that started for a team that won close to 60 games last year. They’ve got a really good basketball team. They’re really athletic. They’re really deep. They’ve got a great point guard [in Mike Conley]. So we’ve got out hands full. We played them hard. We played well at times. And we shot ourselves in the foot a little bit late. But they had a lot to do with it."

  • CONLEY IN FOCUS: Without Gasol, the Grizzlies are very much the .500 team that their record suggests they are. They rank in the bottom third of the league in offensive and defensive rating. But Conley puts a lot of pressure on opposing defenses, causing breakdowns with dribble penetration. He's averaging 18.8 points per game on 49 percent shooting and is averaging 1.04 points per possession, which ranks him in the 85th percentile among all NBA players, according to Synergy Sports data. Conley had a rough outing last time vs. Boston (missing 10 of 12 shots while scoring a season-low 10 points) but you can't expect him to be bottled up like that again (or if he does, the Celtics need to make sure someone like Jerryd Bayless doesn't make up for it).

  • BENCH BURST: The Celtics' bench carried it during its most recent win over the Bobcats. Now the key is getting sustained production from both first and second unit. When Boston's starters struggled Monday, Stevens didn't hesitate to go to a backup lineup that thrived behind Phil Pressey and Gerald Wallace. Said Stevens, "The thing I like about it right now is, we’ve got a good team-ness about us. The last two games, even the last four games, we’ve played pretty darn well. We played well in San Antonio, we played well for 2 ½ quarters against Indiana, and, to be honest with you, I thought Indiana turned it up to a different level and I thought we ran out of steam. I was pleased on the back end of all this travel that we beat Atlanta and Charlotte. That was pretty neat and we needed all 10 guys that played to do it."

  • WHAT ELSE?: Avery Bradley is coming off one of his poorest outings of the season. He'll be key Wednesday in helping to contain the guards, including Conley. ... The Celtics are 2-0 since Brandon Bass rejoined the starting lineup in place of injured Kelly Olynyk. ... Kris Humphries earned rave reviews from Stevens for his part in Monday's win in Charlotte, including providing firm defense against Al Jefferson off the bench. Good things are happening with Humphries on the court and it will be interesting to see if he gets extended run coming off Monday's game.

(Read full game preview)

Questions linger for winless C's

November, 5, 2013
Even before the Boston Celtics faded late in Monday's 95-88 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies, there were those who wondered out loud, "Did we know that it was going to be this bad?"

Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty ImagesVitor Faverani defends the basket on Monday in Memphis.
Bad!? The Celtics have taken all four of their opponents to the final buzzer, at least giving themselves a chance to win each game this season. You actually could make the case that we didn't know they'd be this good. Most pundits thought Boston's young roster under a first-year coach would get run out of the gym most nights.

No, these Celtics have been your typical young NBA team. They show glimpses of potential, they endure maddening lulls in execution on both ends of the floor, and they watch opponents make the crucial plays at the finish line. It's a script that will play out numerous times this season. But it could probably be a lot worse than what we've seen thus far.

On Monday, the Celtics took up the rear in's latest NBA power rankings. A winless first week saw them plummet to the cellar, staring up at all 29 other teams. Is Boston really the worst team in the league? That seems impossible.

Boston has played surprisingly decent defense (the Celtics are 18th in the league in defensive rating; 10th in points allowed per possession) and that's aided the team in rallying from multiple double-digit deficits to make things interesting down the stretch in each of its four games. Right now, the Celtics don't have the individual talent to win close games and this young roster must figure out how to work together, particularly when things get tense late in the fourth quarter, in order to pull out close games.

Listen, no one likes moral victories and Boston can't rest on the idea that, 'Hey, no one expected us to win, so at least we're being competitive!' But given all the obstacles working against the team -- no true point guard while Rajon Rondo rehabs, an inconsistent Jeff Green, the lack of a true go-to presence, being undersized up front, a poorly balanced roster with logjams at multiple positions -- Boston at least has made things interesting thus far.

Coach Brad Stevens had never endured a four-game losing streak in his career before this season. No one said this was going to be easy. As Boston navigates a brutal November stretch, the team likely will continue to take its lumps and must lean on the progress it is making (even if, as Stevens acknowledged, those moral victories mean little inside his team's locker room).

If the Celtics desire to dent the actual win column, here are a few questions that need to be answered:

(Read full post)

Rapid Reaction: Grizzlies 95, Celtics 88

November, 4, 2013
Rapid reaction after the Memphis Grizzlies defeated the Boston Celtics 95-88 on Monday night at FedEx Forum:

Despite turning in maybe their best half of the season, the Celtics watched Memphis rally from six points down early in the third quarter to build a nine-point lead with 16 minutes to go. Boston could have folded, but just as they have in their other three games this season, the Celtics rallied (and actually led by six with little more than seven minutes to play). But Jerryd Bayless caught fire and scored all of his team-high 15 points in the fourth frame for Memphis. Jeff Green scored a game-high 22 points on 6-of-12 shooting (he was 9 of 12 at the free throw line) with five rebounds over 40:27. Jared Sullinger scored 16 points over 20:42 off the bench for Boston.

Bayless was unconscious in the fourth quarter, making his first six shots. That included a trio of jumpers to erase Boston's six-point lead. Bayless' 3-pointer with 4:19 to go put Memphis back out front and Boston scored just two more points the rest of the way. The Grizzlies closed out the game on an 11-2 run.

Jordan Crawford was excellent at times, providing a spark off the bench. He connected on 4-of-7 shots for 12 points and added a team-high four assists while steadying the offense regardless of unit he ran with. .... Gerald Wallace bruised his right knee in the third quarter and did not return. He also did not attempt a single shot over 27:33. ... Vitor Faverani grabbed a team-high six rebounds, but had just five points over 27:38 and was a team-worst minus-19 in plus/minus. ... Green's fourth quarter: 0-for-3 shooting (all 3-pointers), one rebound, one assists, one turnover. He was minus-15 over 9:30. ... Courtney Lee deserves attention for putting up nine points, three rebounds and two assists over 18:54. He was a team-best plus-17. ... Keith Bogans, MarShon Brooks, Kris Humphries and Phil Pressey were all healthy DNPs.

Boston falls to 0-4. It's another moral victory night, maybe Boston's most encouraging overall effort of the season as the team rallied back (and ahead) in the fourth quarter. This is the first time Boston has started the season 0-4 in the 1969-70 campaign. It's also the only time in Brad Stevens' college/pro coaching career that he's endured a four-game losing streak. The Celtics will take Tuesday off coming off a back-to-back, then get a visit from the Utah Jazz on Wednesday. Another back-to-back looms to close this stretch of five games in five cities over seven days with Boston trekking to Orlando (Friday) and Miami (Saturday).

W2W4: C's vs. Grizzlies (Game 4 of 82)

November, 4, 2013
The Boston Celtics (0-3, 0-2 away) visit the Memphis Grizzlies (1-2, 1-0 home) at the FedEx Forum on Monday night (8 p.m., CSN). Here's what to watch for:

* STOP US IF YOU'VE HEARD THIS BEFORE: Rebounding! This might be a category in all 82 games this season given Boston's lack of pure size. The Grizzlies have some bruisers up front and Boston will have its hands full. The Pistons gave the Celtics fits at times with their size and athleticism, and Boston seemingly went small to mix things up on Detroit. Brad Stevens might have to get creative again on Monday.

* GOING GREEN?: Jeff Green sat out the final 14:41 of Sunday's loss in Detroit. While Stevens said he simply decided to ride the group that rallied to the finish line of an 87-77 loss to the Pistons, Green has to channel any frustration from Sunday's extended bench stay and try to use that against the Grizzlies. Green took five shots over 20 minutes on Sunday and the Celtics desperately need him to be more aggressive towards the basket early in games.

* LET'S PLAY TWO (NIGHTS IN A ROW): Stevens dipped into the Larry Bird playbook earlier this preseason and pulled out the legend's quote about the NBA schedule. "Forty-one home, 41 away. Yup, looks right to me," Bird is credited with saying after checking out Boston's schedule for a season during his playing days. Stevens earlier this week downplayed the idea of home vs. away, and noted how every team endures back-to-backs and that his young Celtics team can't use it as an excuse. Boston needs to dust itself off after three winnable games got away and see what they can do against an expected Western Conference power.

* WHAT ELSE?: Gerald Wallace, one of Boston's best offensive players this preseason, is struggling to get going early in the regular season. Wallace, who took only one shot on opening night, scored five points on 2-of-6 shooting over 36:28 against Detroit... Vitor Faverani played only 6:27 in the second half against the Pistons and will be needed against Memphis' towering frontline... Rookie Kelly Olynyk had a stellar second half and should be looking to build off that on Monday.

A forgettable week for C's

March, 24, 2013
Welp, that week couldn't have gone much worse for the Celtics.

Boston lost four games in six days, culminating with Saturday's 110-106 loss in Memphis to cap a winless three-game road trip. The Celtics didn't just lose four games; they had two starters sidelined by injuries by the end of the week as Kevin Garnett and Courtney Lee sat out Saturday's game and may require further testing as the team returns home.

AP Photo/Danny JohnstonJordan Crawford and the Celtics struggled to contain Jerryd Bayless.
Sunday will be one of those pull-the-covers-over-your-head-and-go-back-to-sleep mornings for Boston players. The team has the day off after playing a back-to-back and it's an ideal chance for the Celtics to snooze away their troubles. If trainer Ed Lacerte's number pops up on coach Doc Rivers' cell phone, he probably ought to just send the call to voicemail. It's simply been that sort of week.

A quick refresher on the week that wasn't:

* Boston watched the streaking Heat rally from as much as a 17-point hole and LeBron James' jumper over Jeff Green with 10.5 seconds remaining lifted Miami to a 105-103 triumph at TD Garden, pushing the Heat's winning streak to 23 games and snapping Boston's 11-game home winning streak.

* Opening a three-game road trip against Western Conference cellar-dwelling New Orleans, the Celtics sleepwalked for 3 quarters before mounting a furious late-game charge. It was all for naught, however, as rookie Anthony Davis soared over Garnett, who had sat out the previous two games due to illness and a thigh injury, for the winning tip with 0.3 seconds remaining in an 87-86 triumph.

* A Mavericks team that will likely see its 12-year playoff streak snapped this season spoiled Jason Terry's homecoming as Brandan Wright put up a game-high 23 points and Dallas emerged with a 104-94 triumph. Boston's defense often looked disinterested and the Celtics got outworked in the 50/50 game. Adding injury to insult, both Lee and Garnett sustained ankle injuries that would keep them off the floor in Memphis.

* With a random hero emerging in every city they visit, the Celtics this time saw fourth-year journeyman Jerryd Bayless erupt for 30 points on 11-of-20 shooting as the Marc Gasol-less Grizzlies leaned on their offense for a change while fending off a late Boston charge for a 110-106 triumph.

The Celtics are 12-23 away from TD Garden this season, the worst road record among all playoff opponents (barely edging the Lakers, who are 13-22). In the East, no other playoff team has less than 15 road wins.

There's been definite slippage in the team's defense, and Boston has displayed inconsistent energy at both ends of the floor. There's an awful lot to clean up when the Celtics get back on the practice court on Monday.

(Read full post)

Doc's Take: 'I want to win every night'

March, 23, 2013
Playing without injured starters Kevin Garnett and Courtney Lee, the Celtics fell 110-106 to the Memphis Grizzlies on Saturday, but nearly overcame a 21-point fourth-quarter deficit on the strength of some encouraging play from some of their key reserve players.

AP Photo/Brandon WadeDoc Rivers didn't like losing another game, but liked his team's late rally in Memphis.
Jordan Crawford stepped up in Lee's absence and put in 21 points -- a high since joining the Celtics -- while Terrence Williams and Shavlik Randolph each chipped in with some gritty play. Celtics head coach Doc Rivers viewed the effort of his bench guys as one of the key takeaways from Saturday's loss -- Boston's fourth straight.

"They were great," Rivers told reporters in Memphis. "We basically told them to go in and try to cause havoc and they did that. I thought Jordan was fantastic with his offense and with his passing. I thought all the guys just came in and played hard for us and got us back in the game."

Rivers later added: "I want to win every night. I don't care who's out on the floor. I want our guys to believe they can win every night. That's basically what I was talking to Avery [Bradley] and Jeff [Green] about. We don't go into games thinking, 'We've got a lot of guys hurting, we can't win.' We go into games thinking, 'We've got a lot of guys hurting, somebody else is going to help us win.' And that's how we've got to be and everybody has to lead everybody."

Things looked bleak for the Celtics when Memphis assumed a 98-77 lead with 7:16 remaining in the game, but Boston managed to pour in 29 points from there, snipping the lead to just 2 with 18.9 seconds left. Jason Terry was fouled shooting a 3-pointer and had a chance to bring Boston within a point, but he missed one of his three free throws and Memphis hung on for the victory. Despite the large deficit the Celtics faced, Rivers said they never stopped believing they could win.

"We always [thought we could win]," Rivers said. "Listen, we got a four-point play opportunity, you know? We told [Terry] to come out, pump fake, and if you've got a guy in the air, hopefully you can throw it up. He probably wasn't strong enough, honestly, to do that. But, we almost got it, so there's always a chance to win a game. In that case, to tie the game."

Rapid Reaction: Grizzlies 110, Celtics 106

March, 23, 2013
Joe Murphy/Getty ImagesBrandon Bass and the Celtics met some resistance on Saturday night in Memphis.
Rapid reaction after the Memphis Grizzlies defeated the Boston Celtics 110-106 on Saturday night at FedEx Forum:

Jerryd Bayless scored a game-high 30 points on 11-of-20 shooting, while a staggering seven of the eight players that the Grizzlies put in the game landed in double figures for scoring (sorry, Quincy Pondexter). Zach Randolph, shuffled to a reserve role for a tardy arrival, added 15 points and 10 rebounds for Memphis. Paul Pierce scored a team-high 26 points on 10-of-17 shooting for Boston, but it was Jordan Crawford (21 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists) who sparked an improbable late-game comeback that nearly saw Boston rally out of a 21-point hole.

The Grizzlies embarked on a 13-2 run early in the fourth quarter while stretching their lead as high as 21 points. Bayless lit the fuse with a 3-pointer, and a Mike Conley old-fashioned three-point play had Memphis out front 98-77 with 7:16 to play. Celtics coach Doc Rivers waved the white flag a bit at that point, pulling Pierce near the end of the run, but Boston's scrappy reserves actually made this a game again led by Crawford. The Celtics clawed within a possession, knocking that lead all the way down to 2 with 18.9 seconds to go. But Memphis hit all of its free throws (and Jason Terry missed a pivotal one) that allowed the Grizzlies to hang on.

Avery Bradley provided Boston's highlight of the night, storming down the middle of the lane and throwing down a vicious one-handed jam over Ed Davis with 6:48 to play in the first quarter. The entire Boston bench spilled onto the edge of the court in celebration.

Crawford picked up a technical foul arguing for a goaltending call when Tayshaun Prince hustled for a fourth-quarter chase-down block. Crawford had five technical fouls this season while in Washington, but this was his first since joining the Celtics. Doc Rivers got tagged with his sixth technical of the season as well for arguing against a Paul Pierce double-dribble call in the fourth quarter (though he resisted getting run in order to go watch the thrilling end of the Marquette-Butler NCAA tournament game).

The end of Boston's bench helped closed a dismal road trip on the tiniest of positive notes. It won't do much to eliminate the fact that Boston, which played without two starters as Kevin Garnett and Courtney Lee both have left ankle injuries, has now lost four straight to fall to 36-33 overall (a mere 1 games up on eighth-seeded Milwaukee). Boston has a couple days off before hosting the Atlantic Division-leading New York Knicks on Tuesday night at TD Garden. Also on the schedule this week for the Celtics: A midweek trip to Cleveland for the tail end of a back-to-back, and a visit from the Hawks -- one of the teams Boston is jockeying with at the back end of the Eastern Conference playoff ladder -- on Friday night.

Lee, KG sit out at Memphis

March, 23, 2013
Celtics forward Kevin Garnett and guard Courtney Lee will both miss Saturday night's game against the Memphis Grizzlies due to sprained left ankles, the team announced.

Lee tweaked his left ankle late in Boston's 104-94 loss to the Dallas Mavericks on Friday, but it's unclear when Garnett suffered his own injury.

Saturday will mark just the fourth missed game of the season for Garnett, who had just returned from a left adductor strain and a bout of the flu that kept him out of consecutive games last week. Celtics coach Doc Rivers told reporters before Saturday's game that Garnett would likely undergo an MRI for the injury.

Lee, meanwhile, will miss only his first game of the season on Saturday.

Jeff Green and Jason Terry are expected to start in place of Garnett and Lee, respectively.

For Memphis, Marc Gasol is out indefinitely after aggravating an abdominal tear in Friday's loss to New Orleans.
AP Photo/Elise AmendolaAvery Bradley and the Celtics will look to stop a three-game losing streak by stopping the Grizzlies.
The Boston Celtics (36-32, 12-22 away) visit the Memphis Grizzlies (46-22, 27-8 home) on Saturday night at FedEx Forum. Here's what to watch for:

* WHICH DEFENSE WILL SHOW UP? The Celtics have looked like disinterested defenders with inconsistent energy for much of this three-game losing streak, particularly the first two stops on this road trip. If they are to salvage this three-game trek they'll need to get back to the formula of being a defense-first team that fuels the offense with stops at the other end of the floor. Courtney Lee's ankle injury could diminish the defense on the perimeter if he can't go (or is less than 100 percent), but it's the interior defense that should get the bigger test on this night.

* SYNERGY SNAPSHOT: The Grizzlies rank just 23rd on offense while averaging 0.892 points per play, according to Synergy Sports data. That said, they can hurt opponents in transition after defensive stops and will attack with Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol in the paint in the half-court set (the two have paired up for nearly 30 percent of the team's offensive possessions). Defensively, Memphis ranks second in the league in allowing 0.88 points per play. No surprises here, old friend Tony Allen's numbers are brilliant (0.773 points per play, opponents shooting 34 percent against him), while Gasol (0.747 ppp, 91st percentile) and Randolph (0.784 ppp, 83rd) anchor the frontcourt. And the addition of Tayshaun Prince has been a boon as he's allowing a mere 0.701 points per play and opponents are shooting a mere 32.1 percent against him).

* BROKEN GLASS: It goes without saying against Memphis, but Boston has to find a way to be competitive on the glass. The Grizzlies rank first in the league in offensive rebound percentage (31.7) and second in total rebound percentage (52.3). The Celtics got scorched on the offensive glass in New Orleans, most notably Anthony Davis' winning tip-in, and must make up for their lack of pure size with hustle around the basket. Boston cannot lose the 50/50 game like it did in Dallas.

* CRANK THE PACE: It's the second night of a back-to-back and the third game on the road in four days. All signs point to Boston slogging through this one, but the Celtics absolutely have to crank the tempo. The Grizzlies are near the bottom of the league in pace (91.25 possessions per game) and will be content to work the clock, batter Boston down low, and win the game on the glass. The Celtics need to get stops and outrace the Memphis bigs down the floor for easier offensive opportunities. Boston won't win a half-court game.

Bradley: 'I felt great out there'

January, 3, 2013

BOSTON -- For at least one night, he wasn't the savior, but even in defeat Avery Bradley gave the Boston Celtics some hope.

Bradley made his 2012-13 season debut on Wednesday night and finished with four points on 2-of-6 shooting over 19:31. His defense wasn't perfect, but watching Memphis point guard Mike Conley (game-high 23 points) attack the basket whenever the player in front of him wasn't wearing No. 0 spoke to Bradley's on-court impact. He finished minus-12 overall, but even Celtics coach Doc Rivers absolved him from much of Boston's first-unit struggles.

More than anything, the Celtics expressed a satisfaction in being as close to whole as they've been all season long with Bradley back on the floor. There's optimism he can help fix some of what's ailing the Boston defense, even if it didn't happen in one night.

“Avery was terrific on the ball," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers. "Avery’s going to help us; you could see that. And that’ll be immediate for us. When we were struggling for points and needed somebody offensively -- and Avery will get that too -- you could see him struggling with his shot a little bit. But he’s going to be a big help for us.”

Bradley underwent a pair of shoulder surgeries during his offseason and has been rehabbing the past seven months as Boston brought him back slowly with the goal of avoiding any setbacks.

"I felt great out there," he said. "I got a little winded. There was a little bit of adrenaline just running up and down the court, but it felt good to be out there. I just tried to play as hard as I can and I feel like everything's going to come together as a team. I feel like we played hard tonight. ...

"On the offensive end, I've still got to get a feel, pick my spots. All that will come, though. Like I said, my main focus is just to go out there and play hard. I feel like everything else will work itself out if I do that."

And how did his shoulders hold up?

"No pain at all," he said. "I'm fine."

Read on for reaction from his teammates after Bradley's first game back:

(Read full post)



Jeff Green
18.9 1.6 0.9 33.6
ReboundsJ. Sullinger 7.8
AssistsJ. Nelson 6.3
StealsJ. Nelson 1.5
BlocksK. Olynyk 0.8