Sunday night, the Boston Celtics pulled off a historic NBA Playoffs upset. They went into Cleveland and took down the Cavs minus their leading point scorer and biggest star, Isaiah Thomas. The Celtics as 16.5-point underdogs pulled off the largest postseason upset in the last 20 seasons. After their embarrassing loss in Game Two, many people had written them off to be swept in the series.
The Celtics came into this Game Three with nothing to play for and could have just rolled over with no fight, especially down a key player. Instead, the team rallied together and came back from a 21-point deficit to win on an Avery Bradley game-clinching three.
This game took on a familiar look and feel to this Celtics team. They played with a certain edge that only a few fan bases can appreciate.
The Celtics took a patented page from the Grizzlies playbook, gritting and grinding themselves to a win Sunday night. The team played one of their best quarters in the Conference Finals, but they had to keep fighting as Cleveland could not miss in the first quarter. They fought from behind the whole game until the Celtics tied it up about midway through the fourth.
As Memphis has coined the phrase Grit N Grind, the Celtics could have been said to have been playing some gritty basketball Sunday night. With no Isaiah, Coach Brad Stevens threw out defense first lineups with Marcus Smart starting for Thomas. Marcus Smart is the definition of Grit N Grind. For every two “what are you doing?!” threes, he draws a game-changing charge or massive defensive play that shifts moment and gets the crowd rocking.
Sunday night it was his miraculous three ball that just kept going in as he went 7-10 from three- he was an average 28.3% 3-point shooter this season. He had a career game that once again proves why Boston fans love him. He plays a gritty style every game leaving it all out on the court, similar to a Tony Allen.
There are three players on the Celtics roster where the grit and grind thrives. Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder, and Marcus Smart all up the ante on the defensive side of the ball to hinder many offenses. As we have seen, the Cavs are obviously an incredible team with the best player of the current generation in LeBron James. Sunday night was the best performance of these three doing their job cohesively to shut down this potent offense. Memphis should be proud that Boston saw the way to win was to slow down the game with defense and, then, play their own style of play.
Similar to Memphis, Boston sports have always had that edgy, “don’t mess with us” feel that is just on a much bigger scale, reaching out to a much bigger market. Sunday night had that same feeling as watching a prime-time television Grizzlies game with this big market. Boston had been counted out, lost their best player, and been drug through the mud for the Game Two performance. They came out and finished that game with the mentality of having a chip on their shoulder. Many times the Memphis faithful have seen this with the Core Four of Marc Gasol, Mike Conley, Zach Randolph, and Tony Allen. This is what Sunday night reminded Memphis of.
The Celtics earned a tip of the cap from Grizz Nation. Memphis understands that important games need some real fight and grind to end up on top, and that is what we saw on Sunday. Without Isaiah, it obviously will be a massive struggle on the offensive side of the ball, but this team with Bradley, Crowder, and Smart know how to make the defense turn into offense. It will be a mighty struggle to hold off Lebron and the Cavs the rest of the series, but it may start by playing that same Grit N Grind style that helped the Celtics win a huge Game Three.