The Boston Celtics finished Saturday’s game against Memphis similar to how it began – in control.
But it was the time in between that has to be of concern to Brad Stevens and the Celtics who came away with a 102-93 win.
While Boston (25-7) got the win, this was yet another game when the Celtics had long stretches in which they struggled at both ends of the floor.
But the key to this victory was a 16-0 run to start the fourth quarter that put the Grizzlies (9-21) in a hole that they were never able to climb out of.
Boston’s 1-2 punch of Kyrie Irving and Al Horford were once again impressive for the Celtics, scoring 20 points and 15 points, respectively.
The Celtics also got a strong game from Jayson Tatum who had a near double-double of 19 points and nine rebounds.
Memphis (9-21) was led by Marc Gasol’s game-high 30 points. The Grizzlies also got a strong performance from Tyreke Evans who had 25 points.
Boston’s strong finish wasn’t all that different than how they began the game in the first quarter.
In the first, the Celtics looked like the team with the best record in the East playing one of the league’s worst teams, dominating play in every way imaginable.
Tatum had eight points in the quarter, which was more than he had the previous night when the Celtics lost 107-95 at home to the Utah Jazz.
The Celtics’ first-quarter lead peaked at 21 points before the quarter ended with Boston holding a commanding 31-12 lead.
Now the second quarter?
A totally different story.
Boston went from working over the Grizzlies, to just being plain woeful.
And the issue was obvious … Boston’s defense.
After treating the lane as a “Do Not Enter” zone for Memphis’ players in the first quarter, it was more like an EZ pass lane for the Grizzlies in the second with one lightly contested drive after another.
And when Boston began to plug that leak, Evans – a 42 percent 3-point shooter coming into the game – began to heat up to bring Memphis within 48-40 at the half.
But the second quarter was once again about as bad as you could imagine for the Celtics.
Memphis’ strong play in the second quarter continued early in the third with the Grizzlies making it a 53-all game following a jumper by Gasol as part of a 13-5 Memphis run.
However, the Celtics regained the lead moments later when Kyrie Irving found Aron Baynes open around the rim for a lay-up.
Gasol hit another jumper, with Irving coming back with a 3-pointer that put the Celtics back on top.
Yes, the 21-point lead that Boston opened the first quarter with was a thing of the past now.
The Celtics, led by Marcus Smart, went on a 9-0 run that gave Boston a 69-60 lead.
But the Grizzlies bounced back with a 10-0 run to take their first lead since it was 5-4.
The two went back and forth as the quarter ended with the Grizzlies ahead 73-71.