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Shoot for the Stars...or at Least from Three: Memphis at Boston

Memphis is shipping up to Boston with a new shooting hot streak that could return them to their consistent winning ways.

Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

Boston Celtics vs. Memphis Grizzlies, 6:30PM CT

Setting the Scene

In the topsy-turvy world of March basketball, nothing is certain, and KG said it best: "Anything Is Possible." That's on full display in the Wednesday night meeting between the Boston Celtics (26-36) and Memphis Grizzlies (45-18). One of these teams is undoubtedly headed to the playoffs while the other has worked its tail off to get within two games of a ticket themselves. But both have experienced some of the unpredictability that defines this time of the year.

Tale of the Tape

Boston is playing like a team on a mission and it appears that Commander Coach Brad Stevens has them on just that. They’re 6-4 in their last ten and have been winning games they weren’t supposed to have a shot at, including their last game at Miami (100-90 win). Even in recent losses, the Celtics haven’t made it easy on their opponents, elite or not. They’ve taken the likes of Golden State, Atlanta, and New Orleans to the brink of losing and sometimes beyond.

When it comes to the Grizzlies, it’s really a toss-up at this point as to which version of the team will take the floor. The Grizz have gone from 9% three-point shooting in one game to putting up over 100 in enemy territory in others (at Houston and at Chicago). Memphis' up-and-down success on the court is directly and completely correlated to their shooting performance. Exhibits A, B, C, D, E, and F: their last six games. In those outings the Grizzlies’ magic numbers have been either 100 or 43. 1) Score over 100 or 2) Shoot over 43%. When the Grizzlies have accomplished just one of those statistical checkpoints, they win. Failed to fulfill those requirements? Losses. Every time.

It makes sense then that Boston’s chance of upsetting the Grizzlies depends on their ability to disrupt Jeff Green and Courtney Lee on the outside and the Gasol/Randolph tandem down low. But the reality is that Boston isn’t particularly adept at locking down shooters; they’ve allowed over 45% shooting overall and 31% shooting from deep. While that three-point defense has been one of the best in the league, other than that one area of the floor the Celtics are one of the worst in shooting defense. That’s good news for a Grizzlies team whose success isn’t entirely dependent on making shots from beyond the arc. They certainly do better in those instances, but their overall shooting performance is much more important to their success.

XXX

A few X-factors stand out in this matchup, any of which could influence the result.

  1. Memphis has OWNED the Celtics lately. They already have five wins in a row against the Green and in the last meeting, Marc tied a career-high 32 points and Z-Bo had a 16-16 kind of night.
  2. Boston has OWNED their home-court. At TD Garden the Celtics have been unstoppable in recent outings, winning six of their last seven in Beantown.
  3. Avery Bradley is believed to be making his return from injury on Wednesday night. This is probably the least significant factor as he only has +/- of -1 over the course of the season, but still adds nearly 14 points per game.

That's A Wrap

The Grizzlies should be able to maintain their improved shooting against a Boston team that allows just enough points for Memphis to get hot. That, combined with the fact that the Grizzlies seem to have Boston’s number, spells trouble for the Celtics, and I see this one as a nice road victory for the away team.

Prediction- Memphis 102, Boston 97