Game Preview: Grizzlies vs. Celtics

USA TODAY Sports

Must Win: The Memphis Grizzlies must claw, scratch, and grind their way to a win against the Boston Celtics in order to keep pace with the West's best.

Tonight, the Grizzlies head back home to face the Boston Celtics after being stung by the New Orleans Hornets last night. The loss was costly for the Grizzlies positioning in the standings. The Grizzlies now stand in fifth place, half a game behind the Los Angeles Clippers and a full game behind the Denver Nuggets. The Grizzlies cannot afford many more losses if they hope to keep up with the Nuggets' blistering pace. Both Boston and the Grizzlies are playing for the second night in a row, so neither team should have an advantage in the energy department.

This is the second meeting between the two teams this season, with the first ending in a 93-83 victory for the Grizzlies. Mike Conley was the key for the Grizzlies in the first game versus the Celtics, scoring 23 points to lead all scorers. However, the makeup of both teams is completely different since their first meeting. The Celtics have yet to face the Grizzlies without Rudy Gay and with the other roster additions, and the Grizzlies have not faced the Celtics without Rajon Rondo.

The Grizzlies have won nine straight at home entering Saturday's contest, and a win tonight is crucial to get the ball rolling again after last night's setback. The Grizzlies have a small road trip coming up, and they have three road games in the coming week. While New York and Washington are not exactly world beaters, they should both make for tough games. The Wizards John Wall is one of the hottest players in basketball right now, and the Wizards go as he goes. If he is on his game, that game will be harder to win than most would think. The Knicks might give the Grizzlies issues with such a different style of play, but it is definitely a game the Grizzlies should win. With all that said, the Grizzlies need to win at least three of the next five games, including tonight's contest. With the way the Nuggets are playing, they better be looking for more than three wins in the five game span if they hope to continue to challenge for a coveted top four seed in the West.


Grizzlies Schedule

Next 5 Games

Boston Sat 03/23 7:00 PM CDT
@ Washington Mon 03/25 6:00 PM CDT
@ New York Wed 03/27 6:30 PM CDT
Houston Fri 03/29 7:00 PM CDT
@ Minnesota Sat 03/30 7:00 PM CDT

Scouting the C's

  • The Celtics primary weapon on offense since Rondo went down is the side-to-side pick and roll and pick and pop, and why shouldn't it be when they have two of the best bigs in the NBA when it comes to midrange shooting in Kevin Garnett and Brandon Bass? The Celtics usually start off with a pick and roll on the strong side of the court, and if an open shot does not result from that, they will quickly swing the ball around to the left side of the floor and set up another pick and roll this time on the weakside. This allows the Celtics ball handlers to drive-and-kick to either Bass or Garnett when the on-ball defender closes out too aggressively, thus capitalizing on two of their best scoring options.
  • Paul Pierce is still one of the best spot up shooters in the league at age 35, and it reflects in the amount of screens the Celtics use to free Pierce up for a spot up look. One of the Celtics favorites is to have Pierce start on the low block and have Garnett set a pin-down screen on Pierce's man at the free throw line extended to free Pierce up for an open three or a midrange jumper.
  • Fourth best post up team in the league entering Saturday's contest as far as efficiency goes, averaging 0.88 points per possession on post up attempts according to SynergySports, which is actually shocking considering Garnett and Bass are primarily face up big men. The Celtics do not post up that often, but when they do the stats show they are successful a large percentage of the time.
  • They don't give up much on the defensive side of the ball, and they come into this game as the third best team in the league in terms of defense. However, they do have several weaknesses the Grizzlies should look to exploit. The Celtics are below average at defending the roll/pop man on pick and rolls. This is something Darrell Arthur, the Grizzlies best pick and pop man, should really be able to take advantage of in tonight's game. Additionally, look for Gasol, an adept big man in pick and roll/pop situations himself, to have a huge night. It won't be easy for Garnett and Bass to limit Gasol's production like they did the last time these two teams met.
  • The Celtics are also in the bottom third of the league at defending hand offs and cuts. Tony Allen, lean, mean cutting machine, should be able to score several easy baskets with his uncanny ability to cut to the basket at the perfect moment when the defender is not looking. Now, all he has to do is finish those layups. As for handoffs, the Grizzlies should run a lot of sets that feature Gasol standing right inside the three point line and have Conley come over the screen, take the handoff, and make the read whether to shoot it or drive to the rim for an open layup or a kick-out for an open jumper.

Game Notes

  • In the teams' first meeting, as much as I hate to admit it, Kevin Garnett really got the best of Z-Bo and Gasol when matched up with either one of them. Garnett had 17 points and 7 rebounds, while Randolph finished with just 6 points and 7 rebounds while Gasol was held to 5 points and 8 rebounds.
  • If you hate moving screens, do not watch Garnett very much because he is and always will be the king of moving screens. If you don't believe me, check this out.
  • Want to see a thing of beauty? Watch Avery Bradley on defense. He is one of the best on-ball defenders in the league, and it would not surprise me at all if he finishes his career with one or several defensive player of the year titles.
  • Courtney Lee is questionable for tonight's game after spraining his ankle in last night's game against the Mavericks
  • Tony Wroten played 4:21 last night. He was not great while on the court, but that's weak sauce. #FreeWroten
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