The Grizzlies are feeling good after two straight wins against the Lakers and Cavaliers. These wins were crucial for the confidence and direction of this team going forward after a losing slide knocked them back a bit. The Celtics are coming off a loss to the Houston Rockets on Thursday night, so they will be hungry for a win. The Grizzlies look to continue the momentum from their win on Wednesday.
To learn more about this Boston Celtics team I asked Keith Smith from CelticsBlog to give us a little insight into the Grizzlies opponent tonight. Here’s what he had to say:
1. The Celtics had a bit of a struggle getting things going this year. What is your explanation of what happened early on in the season?
It’s certainly been a roller coaster ride for Boston so far. The main struggle early seemed to be finding the right roles for players. Brad Stevens had to find a way to work 10-11 players in and get guys to adapt to drastically different roles than they had in the past. Beyond that, as simple as it sounds, the Celtics just missed a ton of open shots early in the season. Sometimes, the simplest answer is the best.
2. However, over the last few weeks, Boston has been rolling, winning 11 of their last 14. What has been the difference for them?
Beyond making shots? Stevens changed up the starting five and brought in Marcus Morris and Marcus Smart. That’s made a huge difference. In addition, through injuries and lineup changes, roles are have started to solidify. While it means Gordon Hayward is now a recovering, $30 million bench player, it is what it is. The important thing is winning games. The rest will sort itself out over time.
3. Describe how important it has been for the Celtics that Jayson Tatum has improved and developed so quickly.
It’s been massive for Boston. Tatum is probably the Celtics second-best player right now. Morris has filled that role so far this season, but Tatum is the guy overall. His ability to score at all levels and both with and without the ball is key to the Celtics offense. He’s still got to be more consistent (witness just four points against the Rockets), but that should come. He’s still just 20-years old. But Danny Ainge nailing that draft pick in 2017 can’t be overstated. Not only did it bring a talented player to the team right now, but it helps with the long-term roster building by having a cost-controlled player locked in for four years.
4. Kyrie Irving is playing at a career level this year. What should the Grizzlies do to slow him down?
There are two approaches. First is to make Irving work for everything as much as possible. When he’s catching, dribbling a couple of times and launching jumpers, you don’t have much of a chance. If you make him have to really work, he still might score, but at least he’s expending both time and energy.
The second key is to try to keep him from getting the ball as much as possible. Since Smart joined the starting five, Boston has been playing Irving off the ball a lot. If Memphis can keep him from getting as many touches as usual, something Houston had some success with, that will go a long way towards keeping Irving under wraps.
5. The Celtics dropped one to James Harden and the Rockets the other night. What are the keys to success for the Grizzlies if they want to take home a win tonight?
Have a guy score 45 points while hammering the offensive glass to clean up misses? In all seriousness, that second part is probably realistic. Without Aron Baynes, the Celtics are down their best rebounder. Al Horford has a ton of talents, but he’s not exactly a maven on the glass. With their size, Memphis should be able to clean up inside. On the defensive end, Irving is probably going to get his. Because of that, the Grizzlies just need to try and control everyone else. In addition, winning the bench matchup would go a long way towards a win for Memphis. Boston’s bench has been very inconsistent this year and has regular given up leads or caused deficits to grow.
Thanks again to Keith Smith from CelticsBlog! Be sure to follow them for more insight on the Celtics as they take on the Grizzlies.