The Grizzlies continue their road trip this afternoon in Boston after another disappointing loss against Western Conference rivals Oklahoma City. Coming into today's game, the Grizzlies have lost 5 of their last 7 games. Meanwhile, Boston has been red-hot as of late, winning 8 of their last 10 games. In spite of this, the Celtics have been something of a disappoint this season due to their aging roster, and rumors have circulated all season that President of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge is attempting to blow up the team.
Tonight is also Rajon Rondo's second game back after missing eight games with a sprained wrist. During Friday's game against New York, the normally steady Rondo turn the ball over 5 times. His performance will be key for the Celtics tonight. Memphis' defense forces teams to commit turnovers, and if Rondo can't hold onto the ball, the younger Grizzlies could kill the Celtics on the break.
Also, I probably needn't mention that the Super Bowl is tonight. This could have an interesting effect on the game. The Celtics rely on a strong homecourt advantage in the Garden, but will Boston fans come out to the see the Celtics the same day that their Patriots are playing the Giants? It's entirely possible that the normally full TD Garden is empty tonight.
Memphis (12-11) at Boston (12-10)
12:00 PM ET at TD Garden
Keys to the Game:
1. 4th-Quarter Collapse: As Jeff Clark already mentioned, both the Celtics and the Grizzlies have been miserable this season when it comes to closing out against good teams. Unfortunately, this means that this game could get very ugly in the 4th and become almost unwatchable.
2. Points in the Paint: Ever since the Kevin Garnett trade in 2007, Boston has hung its hat on its defense. This season, is no exception as they are currently 3rd in Defensive Rating. However, as Marc D'Amico at Celtics.com pointed out, their defense has been susceptible to points in the paint. While Garnett is still a phenomenal overall defender, he's vulnerable in the post. Further, Jermaine O'Neal has been unable to replicate Kendrick Perkins' excellent interior defense. This spells good things for the Grizzlies, who rely primarily on interior scoring and averaging 34.3 points in the paint for the season (8th in the league).
3. Marc Gasol: Gasol has been incredible so far and is certainly in the running for a nod as an All-Star Reserve. However, the West is deep with talent, and a strong performance tonight against one of the league's best defenses would go a long way securing his place in Orlando. As I already mentioned, Boston is vulnerable in the paint, and Marc needs to lead the attack. Tonight, the Grizzlies should focus their offense on feeding the ball to Gasol in the post and letting him score or find cutters. If he scores at least 20 points, there's a good chance that the Memphis get the win.
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