If Sunday's Boston Celtics-Memphis Grizzlies matchup was an NBA Finals preview, we're in for an entertaining series.
It was a back-and-forth affair at TD Garden between the two powerhouses. There were 13 lead changes before the C's finally pulled away in the fourth quarter to earn their fourth consecutive victory, 119-109.
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Derrick White stayed hot with a team-high 23 points and 10 assists for his second straight double-double. Sam Hauser stepped up as the unlikely hero with 20 points. Jayson Tatum had an off day with 16 points on 3-of-16 shooting, but the supporting cast made up for it as eight C's scored in double figures.
Grizzlies star Ja Morant led his team with 25 points. Desmond Bane chipped in 18 and Jaren Jackson Jr. added 15 in Memphis' loss.
The Celtics will look to keep it rolling when they visit Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks on Tuesday. Before that marquee matchup, here are our takeaways from Sunday's win, which brings the C's to 41-16 on the season.
Sam Hauser is on fire
"Hausermatic" is back.
Sam Hauser has found his 3-point stroke as of late and he continued his hot streak on Sunday. He picked up where he left off by scoring eight of Boston's first 13 points.
He didn't cool off in the second half. The Celtics' secret weapon tied his career high with six made 3s on 11 attempts. His 20 points marked his highest total since he dropped 24 against the Detroit Pistons back on Nov. 9.
Hauser is averaging 15.3 points and 4.3 rebounds while shooting 19-for-33 from beyond the arc over his last four games. He's been a game-changer.
Mike Muscala fitting in nicely
Muscala is only two games into his Celtics career, but the big man is making Brad Stevens look like a genius for acquiring him ahead of the NBA trade deadline.
After drilling four 3s for 12 points in his C's debut on Friday, Muscala provided an encore in Sunday's win. He again scored in double figures with 10 points on 4-of-7 shooting from the field (2-5 3PT). He also brought down five boards in his 17 minutes.
Muscala was added as a depth piece, but he made a significant impact even with the Celtics frontcourt at full strength. He certainly isn't afraid to shoot (15 shot attempts in 32 minutes through two games) and that's a welcome sight for a C's team that can use the scoring off the bench.
C's burying teams with 3s
The Celtics have been scorching from 3-point range during their current win streak. They kept it going against the Grizzlies by shooting 21-for-51 (41.2 percent) from 3. It also was their fourth straight game with 10 or more 3-pointers made in the first half.
Without Jaylen Brown (facial fracture), Marcus Smart (right ankle sprain), and Malcolm Brogdon (right Achilles soreness), plus Tatum struggling to find his shot, the rest of the roster stepped up. In addition to Hauser and Muscala, Al Horford got in on the action with 16 points while shooting 4-of-7 from 3. The veteran big man came through with multiple clutch shots to seal the deal in the fourth quarter.
Horford added nine rebounds and five assists in his return to the lineup.
Payton Pritchard contributed to the 3-point barrage by hitting four of his seven attempts from long range. Three of those shots came in the first half. The reserve guard finished with 12 points to help make up for Brogdon's absence.
Derrick White added four 3s of his own on seven attempts. He shook off a slow start and ended up with another exceptional performance, tallying 23 points (8-20 FG) and 10 assists.
Dominating the boards
The Celtics' 3-point shooting and ability to crash the glass were the biggest difference-makers in Sunday's win. They outrebounded the Grizzlies 60-45, including 14-3 on the offensive boards.
This is where Robert Williams came in handy. His five offensive rebounds were more than the entire Grizzlies roster combined. He had 16 rebounds in total to go with his 10 points.
Luke Kornet and Grant Williams also made an impact with three offensive boards apiece. The Celtics had 13 second-chance points in the victory.