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Memphis Grizzlies vs. Boston Celtics Game Preview

Can we catch a bubble break?

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Memphis Grizzlies v Boston Celtics Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images

WHO: Boston Celtics (47-23, 3rd seed in Eastern Conference) @ Memphis Grizzlies (33-38, .5 game ahead of Portland Trail Blazers for 8th seed in Western Conference

WHEN: 4:00 PM CT

WHERE: HP Field House at the NBA Bubble in Orlando, Florida

HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN: Fox Sports Southeast/92.9 FM ESPN Memphis


BOSTON: None, could change with potential rest

MEMPHIS: Jaren Jackson Jr. (Out, knee), Tyus Jones (Out, knee), Justise Winslow (Out, hip)


BOSTON: Kemba Walker, Jaylen Brown, Gordon Hayward, Jayson Tatum, Daniel Theis

MEMPHIS: Ja Morant, Dillon Brooks, Kyle Anderson, Anthony Tolliver, Jonas Valanciunas

Memphis Grizzlies v Boston Celtics Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images

I’ve personally enjoyed the Memphis Grizzlies - Boston Celtics connection this season. For the past two seasons these squads have been intertwined because the Grizzlies owe them a first-round pick from the Jeff Green trade. Owing a top-8 protected pick last season, the Grizzlies lucked into the second pick, Ja Morant. Ironically enough, Ja Morant is also the biggest difference in giving Boston a pick in the mid-teen’s this season, and in giving them Cade Cunningham or Jalen Green instead.

The connection isn’t over yet though.

As the Grizzlies’ lead for 8th gets smaller and smaller, they still have a chance of it falling in the lottery, which gives a minuscule (2.4%, to be exact) chance of Memphis keeping the pick and giving Boston an unprotected pick next season. So that’s terrifying.

Regardless of the pick situation, this game is huge for the Grizzlies in the standings but meaningless for Boston. The Celtics currently sit 3rd in the East with no chance to move up or down in the playoff picture. Meanwhile, the Grizzlies are in the middle of a wild chase for the final playoff spot out West:

As the Grizzlies embark another matchup against an Eastern Conference powerhouse, what are some keys to a Memphis win here?

Memphis Grizzlies v Toronto Raptors Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Get Jonas Going

The Raptors did an excellent job of shutting down Jonas Valanciunas. They trapped him in the post, took away the roll, and simply made him a non-factor offensively. If the Grizzlies want a shot at winning this game, they need big production from Valanciunas. And luckily, he doesn’t have to face an elite defensive center like Marc Gasol.

The 5-spot is a sore spot for the Boston Celtics. Though Daniel Theis has emerged as a starting center, he’s still not a favorable counterpart for Valanciunas. When you factor in Enes Kanter, Grant Williams, and Robert Williams off the bench, Valanciunas should be eating.

To get him going, they must attack in the pick-and-roll, primarily targeting Gordon Hayward and Kemba Walker on the defense. In addition, they need to avoid heavy isolation play and rely on ball movement to get the Celtics’ defense out of sorts, so they could find Valanciunas down low for an easy bucket.

Without Jaren Jackson Jr. and Tyus Jones, the Grizzlies need more offensive firepower. They could find that while leaning towards Valanciunas’ strength and Boston’s weaknesses.

Guard the 3-point line

The Grizzlies’ perimeter defense hasn’t been sharp over the course of the bubble. Their rotations and closeouts have been loose, which is leading to an array of open 3-point looks. Memphis’ opponents are shooting 38.2% from deep, converting 13.7 of the 35.8 triples per game.

That won’t fly against this Celtics team. In the bubble, they’ve shot 38.7% from downtown, good for 5th in the league. All of its core guys — Tatum, Hayward, Walker, Brown, and Marcus Smart — can fill it up in a hurry from deep. If the Grizzlies stay lackadaisical on that end of the floor, it won’t be a pretty game for them.

Memphis Grizzlies v Toronto Raptors Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images


This game is hard to predict, not because of the talent discrepancy, but because of situation.

I can see an outcome, similar to the Toronto game, where the Celtics play their starters regular minutes. Then, the quartet of Tatum, Brown, Hayward, and Kemba can be too much for this depleted Grizzly team.

However, Boston decides to rest or load manage their key guys, which is possible given the Celtics’ stagnant standing out East. Unless you think Brad Wanamaker and Robert Williams can handle Ja Morant and Jonas Valanciunas, it could open up the door for a Grizzlies win.

Regardless, like we’ve seen throughout the bubble, the Grizzlies will remain competitive and not get blown out.

Prediction - Boston 115, Grizzlies 108 *** - given current injury/rest report

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