(AP Photo/Brandon Dill)
By Patrick Whalen
Taking on the Grizzlies last saturday night the Celtics came in looking right the ship after a tough loss down in Houston. This game in Memphis was the second of their three game road trip to end 2018. Coming into tonight matchup the Celtics were without Aron Baynes again with that broken left hand and Robert Williams was also listed as out for the game with a hamstring injury. Al Horford was also still on his minutes restriction of 25 minutes. The frontcourts injuries again would play a key role in the games matchup as the Celtics would have to go up against peremial all star Marc Gasol and star rookie Jaren Jackson Jr. The Celtics would have to rely on their two most consitent players, Kyrie Irving and Marcus Morris, to try and get this win on the road.
Kyrie and Morris led the way on the offensive end. Kyrie went for 26 points, 22 in the second half. He was also 8-16 shooting including 2-4 from three.
Kyrie also had 13 assits on the night including this one to Gordon Hayward late in the third quarter.
Coming off getting ejected in Houston, Morris bounced back with 22 points on 7-13 shooting and 4 rebounds. Despite their offensive performances the Celtics trailed by 17 at the half by a score of 64-47. Al Horford stepped up his play in the second half esspecially late in the fourth quarter as he hit two big threes to secure the win. For the game Horford, despite his minutes restriction, had 18 points on 6-12 including 5-7 from three to go along with 6 rebounds.
Tatum and Smart weren’t highly productive scoring wise but made impacts in other ways. Smart had just 8 points but had played great defense with 4 steals including this one that led to a three for himslef.
Tatum may have had just 7 points but also had 8 rebounds, 5 assits, and 4 steals and 2 of his 7 points were probably the loudest of the night with his early first quarter put back slam.
The Celtics also got a boost off the bench from Gordon Hayward who finished with 14 points on 6-11 shooting. The great second half performace from the Celtics defense helped the Celts outscore the Grizzlies 65-39 in the second half including 33-16 in the fourth quarter in route to their 19 point comeback and 9 point win.
The Grizzlies despite losing still had some solid performances. Mike Conely had 26 points, 6 assits, and 5 rebounds. Marc Gasol had 15 points and 10 rebounds, rookie Jaren Jackson Jr. had 15 points and just 4 rebounds. Dillon Brooks, who was almost traded to Phoneix earlier this month, had 19 points off the bench for the Grizzlies (Basketball-Reference.com).
The Celtics needed a win like this to get back on track. Obviously we’d rather see the Celts not have to come back from a 19 point deficet but the fight this team showed in the second half was something thats been lacking this season. Seeing this team step up on the dfensive end and do a complete 180 from the first half was a great sign to see out of this team. If they could play that kind of defense for 4 quarters that could make this team the threat in the east that they should be. It was also great to see that despite missing Williams and Baynes that the Celtics still tied the Grizzlies in rebounds. Consistent defense and rebound have been this teams two main problems all year but they seemed to step up tonight and do their jobs.
Up next for the Celtics they have their final road game of this road trip down in San Antonio as they face the Spurs. The Celtics currently sit 5th in the east and 4.5 games behind the Raptors for first. A win in San Antonio could have the Celtics sitting just 4 games back to start 2019 despite currently sitting at a dissapointing 21-14 on the season. If the Celtics can get a win on New Years Eve and end 2018 on a high note the could hopefully carry that momentum into 2019 and start a win streak that jumps them back to the top of the eastern conference. After this game in San Antonio the Celtics start 2019 with 4 straight home games. But for now the Celtics just need to focus on going out and beating the Spurs and ending 2018 on a high note.