Jayson Tatum

Increased usage of starters helps fuel Celtics victory over Grizzlies

Increased usage of starters helps fuel Celtics victory over Grizzlies

The Boston Celtics got the win over Memphis, with the team’s second unit chipping in for the victory.

But they still have too many offensive lulls, something head coach Brad Stevens recognizes and to his credit, is continuing to search for ways to address appropriately.

We’ve seen him utilize a starter playing with the backups.

But in Saturday’s 102-93 win at Memphis, Stevens elected to play a pair of starters with the second unit for longer stretches which on this night at least, helped them get the victory to extend their East-leading record to 25-7.

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In fact, Boston had at least two starters on the floor in the fourth quarter for all but the final 28.4 seconds of play.

“It’s one of those things, it’s probably going to go back and forth,” Stevens said. “Based on who’s available.”

A key missing part of the Celtics’ bench rotation is Marcus Morris who continues with rehab on his sore left knee.

Morris, who did not make the trip with the team, is out indefinitely although the Celtics maintain that he’s close to resuming action.

Stevens was asked about his use of Jayson Tatum and Al Horford together, with a trio of reserves.

“If Marcus Morris is here, maybe you don’t play either of them with that group,” Stevens said.

Morris has appeared in 16 games (nine starts) for the Celtics this season, averaging 12.1 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.6 assists per game.

Indeed, bench production has been an issue for the Boston Celtics all season.

According to hoopsstats.com, the Celtics bench came into tonight’s game averaging 30.5 points per game which ranked 23rd in the NBA. However, Boston’s defense has limited second units to 32.6 points per game which ranks 8th in the league.

Against the Grizzlies, Boston only had three players off the bench score (Marcus Smart, Terry Rozier and Daniel Theis) who combined for 26 points.

But as limited as they were scoring the ball, Memphis was even worse with a second unit scoring total of just 15 points.

Of course, rotations are a season-long, always-evolving process that is dependent heavily on not just who is available, but how those who are available to play are performing.

The Celtics’ second unit has had their moments this season, but by and large the team’s success has been heavily fueled by the play of the starters.

Stevens has made it clear, he’ll continue to find ways for those guys to be put in the best positions to succeed individually as well as for the Celtics.

And as long as Morris remains out, you can expect Stevens will continue to find ways to fill that void with increased usage from his starters.

“As long as Marcus Morris isn’t playing,” Stevens said, “We need to be alert to that and guys are going to have to play different rotations.”

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Stars, studs and duds: Tatum is not your average rookie

Stars, studs and duds: Tatum is not your average rookie

Win or lose, strong play or a night full of struggles, Jayson Tatum’s demeanor seldom changes for the Boston Celtics.

That alone makes him a rather unique rookie.

But then you see him play and have nights like the one he had against Memphis tonight, and you realize why this 19-year-old kid is so cool, calm and collected all the time.

There’s still a lot for him to learn about this league, but his talent, skill and feel for the game is uncanny . . . which against the Grizzlies, helped Boston pull away in the fourth quarter for a 102-93 win.

Tatum had a near double-double of 19 points and nine rebounds with seven points in the fourth, but a deeper dive is required to fully appreciate what he meant to the Celtics on Saturday and what his true value is for this team this season.

“I was trying to be in attack mode, get what the defense was giving me,” Tatum said. “Just trying to bounce back from (Friday’s 107-95 loss to Utah).”

His scoring, rebounding, defense and overall impact was as good as we’ve seen from him this season, a radically different showing than Friday night’s 7-point performance which included him missing six of his seven shot attempts.

“He does a great job of having short-term memory,” said Boston’s Al Horford. “Even in games, he might start a little slow and then he’ll pick it up. That’s a strength of his that’s very rare for a rookie. A lot of times, with rookies, when things don’t go their way, you can’t count on them. With him, it’s the opposite.”

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Boston’s 102-93 win at Memphis.

 

STARS

Marc Gasol

The Grizzlies gave the Celtics all they could handle, and Gasol had a lot to do with it. He led all players with 30 points on 11-for-19 shooting.

Jayson Tatum

There were others who had more points than the 19-year-old, but Tatum was clutch when the Celtics really needed someone to step up. He finished with 19 points which included seven in the fourth quarter, along with grabbing nine rebounds to go with two blocks and two steals.

 

STUDS

Kyrie Irving

Once again, the Celtics’ scoring attack was led by Kyrie Irving who had a quiet 20 points on 7-for-17 shooting to go with six assists.

Al Horford

While his ability to facilitate remains a strength, Al Horford came up with some big shots in the second half as the Grizzlies tried to rally back into the game. He finished with 15 points, seven rebounds and six assists.

Daniel Theis

Playing with a broken nose and an off-the-shelf mask to protect it (he’ll get a fitted one soon), Theis had five points, three rebounds and two blocked shots in 14 minutes while playing good defense and providing some much-needed energy.

Tyreke Evans

The former rookie of the year has made an amazing transformation into a reliable 3-point shooter. That was just part of what was a really strong game from Tyreke Evans who had 25 points.  

 

DUDS

Celtics’ second-quarter play

For the second straight game, the Celtics were at their worst in the second quarter. Fortunately for them, it didn’t cost them the game as was the case on Friday night against Utah. The Celtics were fortunate to only be out-scored 28-17 which allowed them to maintain a 48-40 lead.

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Time for Celtics to shake off the blues in Memphis

Time for Celtics to shake off the blues in Memphis

As the Celtics’ players gathered their belongings and headed out for tonight’s game in Memphis, Gordon Hayward took a seat at his locker stall, the first one you come across when you enter the Celtics’ locker room.

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Like most of us trying to make sense of Boston’s 107-95 loss to Utah, Hayward could sense the disappointment among his teammates. 

He offered a few words of encouragement to teammate Semi Ojeleye, whose locker was next to his, soon followed by a few more words for Jaylen Brown whose mindset was already on to the next game tonight at Memphis.

“We’re going to come out, respond, play as hard as we can,” said Brown, who added, “just come out and get a win against Memphis.”

That “on-to-the-next-one” mantra has served Boston well this season and they'll look to continue along those lines against the Grizzlies tonight.

Despite losses in three of their past five, the Celtics (24-7) still have the best record in the East – two games ahead of Cleveland (21-8).

“We got a big one [tonight],” said Terry Rozier. “We just have to pay attention to the details and take care of business.”

Here are under the radar storylines heading into tonight’s game against Memphis.

THE AL AND KYRIE SHOW
We have seen these two work in sync with one another for a good chunk of this season, so it was not all that surprising to see both play well against the Jazz. They combined to score 54 of Boston’s 95 points, or 56.8 percent of their scoring. And when it came to setting up teammates, they had 13 of Boston’s 20 assists, or 65 percent. They don’t have to be that dominant tonight, but putting up comparable numbers – and maybe getting one or two players to chip in as well – would go far in Boston getting back on a winning track.

THE "NEW" COACH
J.B. Bickerstaff became Memphis’ interim head coach after the organization fired David Fizdale after a 7-12 start. Like any interim head coach, he’s trying his best to make a favorable impression so that the "interim" tag will be dropped. So far? Not great. The Grizzlies have lost eight of 10 since Fizdale’s firing in large part because of injuries – which was among the factors that contributed to Fizdale’s struggles. This isn’t Bickerstaff’s first go-around as an NBA head coach. As an assistant coach with the Houston Rockets, he was named the interim coach when Kevin McHale was fired in 2015. Bickerstaff went 37-34 and led the Rockets to the first round of the playoffs where they were eliminated in five games by the Golden State Warriors.


 
REBOUNDING
Talent, timing and effort all go hand-in-hand when it comes to rebounding success, with effort being the most critical component. And against the Jazz, Boston just didn’t seem to bring it at any point in the game. And the end result was a 55-31 rebounding advantage for the Jazz. Boston may catch a break tonight against the Grizzlies, who come into tonight’s game with a rebounding percentage of .478 which ranks 27th (out of 30 teams) in the NBA.


 
D ON THE DECLINE
Friday night’s game against Utah was yet another underwhelming performance by Boston’s defense. The Celtics had a defensive rating of 109.3.  For the season, the Celtics still have the league’s top defense – barely. Their 100.6 defensive rating is just a smidge better than Oklahoma City (100.7). And once again, Boston might get some relief tonight against a Memphis team that has struggled offensively all season. They come into the game with an offensive rating of 101.4, which ranks 27th in the league.

JAYSON TATUM
It’s still too soon to say if Tatum has hit the rough patch all first-year players endure – better known as the rookie wall – but there’s no question his scoring of late has been off. The past three games, Tatum, 19, has scored a total of 26 points, which is the fewest he has scored in a three-game stretch as a pro. The rookie had seven points on 1-for-7 shooting against the Jazz, bringing his shooting numbers in the past three games to a not-so-great 8-for-22 (36.4 percent).

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