IN A NUTSHELL
What’s befalling the Memphis Grizzlies fanbase is not fair. Chandler Parsons effectively grifted the front office and massacred their cap space for the past two and a half years, their owner is a venture-capital loon, their GM is as much a sniveling ass as any used-car salesman but far less clever, Marc Gasol is checked out entirely…but them’s the breaks, and the Boston Celtics are not in the business of losing to make opposing fans feel better.
A strong first half from Memphis proved that if nothing else, their players give a damn. Stalwart point guard Mike Conley and rookie Jaren Jackson Jr. put in remarkable work and the whole team shot well from deep, but despite a giant lapse in the second frame, the Celtics did everything much better on both ends of the floor. If Kyrie Irving truly aims to be this team’s undisputed leader, nights like this where he powers the team to a close victory, with 38 points in a 122-116 win, go a long way toward making that case.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Kyrie was stone cold in the Toronto game Wednesday night as a shooter and passer (27 points, 18 dimes), and continued the latter streak in the first half, making a concerted effort to keep everyone else on the floor involved in the offense. In the third, when things were much dicier, he went into killer mode and focused on the former skill. He also refused to slow down in the fourth even as the game fell more into Boston’s hands. Coming within striking distance of a triple-double with 38 points, 11 assists and 7 rebounds, it was undoubtedly one of Irving’s best games in a Boston Celtics uniform.
Also: MARCUS SMART COULD NOT BE STOPPED. COULD. NOT. BE. STOPPED. He had fewer points than Irving (20), but shot 78 percent including six threes, played his usual ferocious defense and was a game-leading +23 on the night. Seems like the right time for this GIF:
Other smaller but also valuable stuff:
- Al Horford didn’t do as well from the rebounding or playmaking perspective as he often does, but made up for it with 18 points.
- The reserves were almost uniformly excellent. Terry Rozier and Jaylen Brown both scored in double figures, and Brown also showed serious hustle on defense. Last but hardly least, the defensive value of Aron Baynes to this team can’t be understated.
WHAT WENT WRONG
The second quarter represented an object-lesson in every way that Boston can be inconsistent from game to game. After a strong run to take a double-digit lead, defense fell into a grotesque quagmire as Memphis outscored, out-rebounded and out-muscled Boston in every way. Only the size of the lead the Celtics had before this disastrous stretch and some quality play from Irving, Horford and Smart kept that quarter from being an absolute disaster.
- The final frame saw a partial return to Q2’s doldrums, but Kyrie’s virtuoso performance kept things from getting out of hand.
- Jayson Tatum couldn’t buy a goddamn shot, ending the night with zero field goals and 2 points at the charity stripe (plus 6 rebounds, 4 dimes and a block).
- Bunch of loose elbows on both sides. Brown got beaned by Jackson in the jaw; Gasol took a shot to the face from Irving, and there were at least one or two others I’m not recalling now. None of them were intentional, but for shit’s sake I don’t want any players on either of these teams getting a friggin’ injury.
- (In truth I don’t want pretty much any NBA player to get injured in any serious way. Definitely care less about some than others. The pain of Chris Paul does not bother me all that much; nor does that of Dwyane Wade or Kobe Bryant.)
WHAT THE HELL
I’m not entirely sure why Shelvin Mack thought it was prudent to try and have smoke with Kyrie. As with most NBA beefs, it came to nothing more than shit-talking, but like…Irving grew up in northern New Jersey. As someone who also did, I can attest to it being a poor choice. Even the skinny dumbasses from Jersey (yours truly) are too crazy when provoked to be easily stopped in a fight.
GREEN FIRE HIGHLIGHTS
Kyrie straight up shattered poor Jevon Carter’s brain with this:
Brown’s devastation of Casspi via dunk:
One of Smart’s six beautiful distance shots: