Celtics hang on to beat Grizzlies 102-93 in roller coaster game

Celtics hang on to beat Grizzlies 102-93 in roller coaster game

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.


Celtics achieve their biggest offseason goal: Re-signing Marcus Smart

File photo

Celtics achieve their biggest offseason goal: Re-signing Marcus Smart

BOSTON -- Mission accomplished.

The Celtics went into the offseason planning to bring back all their core players from last season’s squad, which came within a victory of getting to the NBA Finals.

The last bit of business is now taken care of with Marcus Smart coming to terms on a four-year, $52 million contract.

A restricted free agent this summer, Smart was unable to secure an offer sheet from another team. The Celtics had maintained all along they would match any offer within a reasonable amount. 

They never put a specific number on how high they would go, but most league executives believed a team would have to sign Smart to an offer sheet of at least $15 million in order for the Celtics to allow him to walk.


Signing Smart solidifies what’s shaping up as one of the deepest backcourts in the NBA. All-Star Kyrie Irving and Jaylen Brown are the starters, with Smart and Terry Rozier coming off the bench.

There were moments during negotiations when Smart was reportedly disappointed and frustrated by the lack of attention the Celtics were paying him through the process. But Boston maintained all along that re-signing him was its No. 1 priority, and that position never changed.

Even when Smart’s return was far from a given, the Celtics still had a roster that was viewed by many as one of the best in the NBA. When LeBron James left Cleveland to sign with the Los Angeles Lakers, that instantly catapulted the Celtics to the top of the Eastern Conference. (Story continues below.)


At 1:26 mark: A. Sherrod Blakey, Kyle Draper, Gary Tanguay and Trenni Kusnierek discuss the Smart deal prior to its finalization


Now with Smart set to return, Boston’s position among its Eastern Conference brethren remains strong as ever, even with the Raptors trading for two-way standout Kawhi Leonard.

The Celtics' journey towards the NBA Finals will involve them leaning on a variety of players with a varying amount of strengths and skills. That's why re-signing Smart was so important.

The recipe for postseason success is an unpredictable one; it requires having as much elite versatility on the roster as possible. That's what Smart brings: An ability to impact games when there’s a great need for toughness defensively, which is often in the closing moments of matchups.


That’s why you’ll often find Smart on the floor in close games, regardless of how well or woeful he might be shooting that night.

Because as much as the analytics folks of the world would love to see better numbers by Smart when he’s on the floor, it always comes back to winning games for the 6-foot-4 guard.

And as much of a head-scratcher he may be when it comes to shooting, he never loses sight of the ultimate goal -- winning -- which is why Boston’s quest towards Banner 18 is even more alive and well with his return.


NBC Sports Boston Breakfast Pod: Kawhi Leonard finally traded; Marcus Smart back to the Celtics?

NBC Sports Boston Photo

NBC Sports Boston Breakfast Pod: Kawhi Leonard finally traded; Marcus Smart back to the Celtics?

1:26 - Marcus Smart and the Celtics are reportedly finalizing a 4 year contract. A. Sherrod Blakey and Kyle Draper join Gary Tanguay and Trenni Kusnierek to discuss the deal and debate if the Celtics are overpaying for Smart.

6:17 - Kawhi Leonard has finally been traded. The Spurs shipped him to the Raptors in a package centered around DeMar DeRozan. Cedric Maxwell breaks down who got the best end of the deal and if he was surprised Kawhi got sent to Toronto.

11:18 - Darrelle Revis has officially retired from the NFL after 11 seasons, including one season with the Patriots where he won his only Super Bowl ring. Chris Gasper along with Tanguay and Trenni discuss Revis’ legacy.