Team identity is often overlooked in the talent-driven NBA, but the league’s top teams generally have unique characteristics that set them apart. There’s the selflessness of the Warriors, the defensive intelligence of the Spurs and the “live by the 3, kill by the 3” Morey-ball played down in Houston.
Injuries to key players have prevented the Celtics from finding their own identifiable attribute, but the same cannot be said about tonight’s opponent, the Memphis Grizzlies.
Over the last four seasons, the Grizzlies have been one of the “clutchest” teams in the NBA. This isn’t a subjective observation; winning close games is in their DNA. The NBA defines “clutch” as games within five points in the final five minutes of play. Memphis is 102-53 in those games since the start of the 2013-14 season, and is tied for the league lead with 13 clutch wins this season, boasting the fourth-best best record at 13–5.
But when you adjust the numbers, their Basketball Acumen in Laborious Late Situations is even more impressive.
The Grizzlies have a league-leading nine wins in games in which they’ve trailed by five points or fewer or been tied in the final minute this season, and their 9-2 record in those games leads the league. The Celtics, on the other hand, are just 2-7 in those games. Here’s hoping for a comfortable lead late for the Celtics tonight.