BOSTON -- Following the Boston Celtics' pummeling of the Los Angeles Lakers on Monday, I asked Gordon Hayward what does it take for the C's to have a few more nights like that.
“It’s our defense,” he said. “When we’re playing really well, we’re flying around on defense, communicating…and that translates to our offense and overall, we just play better.”
Do. They. Ever.
Boston's defense triggered a 23-2 run in the second quarter that put the Grizzlies in a hole that they simply could never climb out of as the Celtics pulled away for a 119-95 blowout win.
And to think, just a few days ago there were questions about what's wrong with the Celtics.
While they are very much a work in progress, a second blowout in as many games against either a title contender (the Lakers) or one of the league's hottest teams (Grizzlies), speaks to how dominant this team can be on any given night regardless of the opponent.
And while Memphis (20-25) came in with a losing record, this victory was indeed a quality one for Boston considering how well the Grizzlies came in with wins in seven of their previous eight games.
The decisive win was certainly bolstered by another strong shooting night.
But this win, much like the Lakers victory, had more to do with the defense playing at a high level.
And now, the question is no longer about whether the Celtics can play at an elite level against quality teams.
It has more to do with, can they take that elite defense, efficient shot-making brand of basketball we've seen lately, on the road?
In the first half, Daniel Theis channeled his inner-Marcus Smart, delivering an unexpected barrage of 3-pointers before finishing with 14 points on 5-for-7 shooting.
One of the keys to Memphis’ success of late has been the play of Jaren Jackson Jr., whose inside-outside game puts him among the best young bigs in the NBA.
Having Theis show he too can knock down long-range shots, as well as score from inside the paint, helped neutralize Jackson’s impact.
He was among the better performers in Boston’s blowout win over the Los Angeles Lakers, and seemingly picked up where he left off.
Tatum led the Celtics with 23 points to go with seven rebounds and four assists before leaving in the third quarter with a groin injury.
Brad Stevens said after the game that the injury, “didn’t sound like it was too bad. I’m not that concerned.” Stevens said Tatum will be tested again on Thursday.
Similar to what we saw against the Lakers, the timing of Tatum’s scoring was just as important as the final point total.
Rather than scoring to keep the Grizzlies from getting back into the game, many of Tatum’s baskets added to what was one of the more demoralizing losses for Memphis this season.
And to Tatum’s credit, it was clear that he had a great feel for what the Celtics needed from him at all times.
There will be nights when Tatum won’t be nearly as good scoring as we saw on Monday or against the Lakers.
Still, what we are seeing is his overall growth as a star, showing steady improvement on how to give the game what it needs from him.
ROOKIE WALL FORMATION
Ja Morant has been absolutely killin’ teams with his explosive scoring which ranks atop rookie leaders this season.
This is the same guy that dropped 30 points on the Brooklyn Nets and a healthy Kyrie Irving, lit up the Utah Jazz and Donovan Mitchell for 25 recently and dropped a cool 26 on the Houston Rockets and their 1-2 punch of James Harden and Russell Westbrook.
But the Celtics weren’t in the mood to be the latest team to get lit up by the runaway leader for NBA Rookie of the Year, limiting him to a career-low two points on 1-for-5 shooting.
The way the Celtics treated Morant provided a snapshot of how Boston treated the entire Grizzlies team; looking like a team that was focused on playing the Memphis team of the moment (winners of seven of eight) rather than one with a below-.500 record.
Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Magic, which begins Friday at 6 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live, followed by tip-off at 7 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.