As you might expect, this matchup between the Grizzlies and Celtics–two of the league’s best defenses during December–wasn’t a pretty game. But damn it was entertaining. It sometimes looked like Memphis was in total control, but about halfway through the third quarter Boston–on the Little Guy’s back–came roaring to life and snagged a huge 112-109 overtime win against a major opponent.
THE GAME FLOW
The Grizz couldn’t simply bully-ball the hell out of Al Horford and Amir Johnson, but when Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph and Tony Allen are battling in the paint, they get their way often enough for it to hurt no matter who they face. Boston, to their credit, didn’t look overmatched…
…until the second quarter. Memphis formed a wall and the Celtics couldn’t hit a thing. New Grizzlies addition Troy Daniels got hot beyond the arc, and Gasol’s offense was cooking from range and in the post. As the frame ended, Memphis’ lead was in double digits and they looked to be toying with an opponent that couldn’t hack it offensively. (The bench shooting 3 of 20 in the first half didn’t help.) Allen, Gasol and Mike Conley came up with some All-Defense highlights tonight, breaking up Brad Stevens’ ball movement with every kind of block, deflection and steal you can imagine going into the second half.
Things got nuts during the game’s final third. Isaiah went from having 8 points in the first half to 20 at Q3’s end (on the way to double that), doing a lot of damage at the line. Jae Crowder and Horford made up for lackluster early showings with solid work on both sides of the ball, and Bradley muscled his way into the paint for some key buckets.
But this was Isaiah’s show. He’s why the Cs didn’t get blown out and made it to overtime, and why they won. I think I started to become delusional during the overtime, because even I wondered how the Celtics got some of the calls they did (I don’t think Z-Bo’s hit on Olynyk was ejection-worthy). Sometimes, though, a W is a W, ugly or not.
The rebounding. I knew the Celtics were going to get outmuscled on the boards by this Grizzlies team, but some second-chance points from the offensive glass could’ve kept them out of overtime. A small gripe here, but still.
I.T. won this game, for sure. But this amazing Avery drive and-one is reflective of how completely the Cs turned themselves around after a shitty first half:
One of the prettiest of I.T.’s seven (!) made threes:
Isaiah Thomas: 44 points on 10-16 shooting (plus a Hardenesque 17 at the line) and 3 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 steals and a block.
Al Horford: 17-14-3 plus a block. He shot only a bit better than the 40 percent Boston hit as a team, but his second-half defense and OT dagger helped seal the win.