It was a near perfect night for the Grizzlies. Here we were, on the road, playing arguably the best team in the league. This was the kind of game we were dreading. We were 14-22 on the road and the Celtics were boasting a 29-6 home record heading into this one. We had just come off a news cycle in which the focus was on our diminishing playoff hopes now that our best player (who hasn't played since Feb. 14, mind you) would not return this season. Behind us, the Houston Rockets were surging, having won 4 straight, heading for a matchup against the lowly Warriors and pulling to within 2 games behind us. Talk about a big Wednesday night in Boston!
Once again, however, we showed that we're a serious contender not to be taken lightly. I had read many blog posts and comments prior to the game about the inevitable blowout victory for the Celtics. Heck, some of them were convincing enough that I almost wanted to hide from this game last night.
But the Grizzlies showed fight in this one, a game which was ugly early and tough to watch down the stretch. There was plenty to like, yet in the morning after you can certainly find some cause for alarm. Let's celebrate a great road victory... and maybe rain on this parade a little.
Mike Conley looked terrible on the offensive side of the ball. He made just 1-of-9 shot attempts, turned the ball over 5 times and struggled in the first half to initiate the offense. He didn't do a terrible job on Rajon Rondo on the defensive side of the ball, but part of that is because Rondo took some questionable shots. Conely gets credit for hitting some big free throws and keeping his head about him, even as Rondo was hounding him throughout.
Zach Randolph looked a little pedestrian, thanks in big part to the Celtics interior defense. I mentioned yesterday that they were the top team in the league in limiting points against to opposing frontcourts. Still, Randolph played smart basketball, taking just 13 shot attempts and hitting 6 of them. He wasn't getting many calls down low, seeing the free-throw line just once and that was on a technical foul. He also did a nice job defensively on KG -- holding him to 3-of-9 shooting from the floor. In all, Randolph played well and he played to the tone of the game.
- Rebounding! We had 43 boards, 11 of which were on the offensive glass. Z-Bo had 5 offensive rebounds while Marc Gasol pulled in 3. It was a solid effort by the Grizzlies in working the glass.
- The BENCH! What a great game by our second unit. It was our bench who gave us an early lead as the starters looked sloppy and faltered early. Leon Powe was an offensive punch, scoring 13 points in 17 minutes. O.J. Mayo chipped in with 11 points on 5-of-11 shooting, hitting a big 3-pointer. Darrell Arthur came through with 10 points and 4 rebounds, while playing some nice defense in just under 20 minutes. Grievy Vasquez provided a spark yet he once again was little help on defense. Shane Battier played a significant role off the bench, as you would suspect, despite the fact that he was held scoreless. Battier had some key defensive stops and a big rebound late in the game which helped the Grizzlies pull this one out. The bench was fantastic.
- Marc Gasol... what happened at the free-throw line?! He needs to sink those free throws. We would have talked about this one for the remainder of the season if the game was lost on Gasol's inability to sink his free throws. Thankfully, we don't have to wonder "what it...?"
- Of course, to rain on our parade last night the Suns and Rockets had to win, keeping pace with us in the race for the 8th. The Hornets didn't play, so the good news here is that we pulled to within a half game of the 7th seed. Right now we just need to hold on, play our game and continue to compete.
Out next game isn't going to be easy. We play in Chicago on Friday night. There is no better team in the NBA right now than the Chicago Bulls, who are coming off two straight blowout victories, including Tuesday night's 114-81 win over the Hawks. We follow that game up with a home date against the Spurs, who are certainly beatable now that Tim Duncan is sidelined.
Great win for the Grizzlies! And I continue to ask, how many times can we continue to say "this was the win of the year for us!"? Well, a win on Friday in Chicago would probably trump Wednesday night's game. But, until then, let's just enjoy last night's victory.
More: CelticsBlog, Grizzlies vs Celtics boxscore.