BOSTON – The Boston Celtics are back to playing well at both ends of the floor, coming out of the all-star break with back-to-back road wins.
The Memphis Grizzlies are one of the worst teams in the NBA this season, no longer a team trying to be the top squad in the West.
Instead, they’re more concerned with trying to land the top pick in June’s NBA draft.
You hear the calls from coaches and players all the time about how the focus has to be on playing teams and not their records.
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That mantra will be put to the test tonight when the Celtics (42-19) host the struggling Grizzlies (18-40).
There’s no question the Celtics are playing better basketball now in comparison to what we saw prior to the all-star break when they lost three straight and four of five.
But before fans get too excited about the two games, Celtics head coach Brad Stevens offers up a sobering reminder that this Boston team is indeed a work in progress that despite their impressive record, has a lot of room for growth.
“We’re not in it for two games,” Stevens said. “We’re in it for the last 23 so we just have to keep adding to and building on.”
While there’s incentive to win every night, the Celtics should have even more motivation considering a victory could potentially put them back atop the Eastern Conference standings.
Boston (42-19) comes into tonight’s game trailing Toronto (41-17) by a half game with a Celtics win and a Raptors loss to Detroit putting the Celtics back atop the East.
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Meanwhile, they face a Memphis team that’s no longer about that Grit-and-Grind brand of basketball that made them a playoff team each of the last seven seasons.
Today, they are in the infancy stages of rebuilding which gives you some sense as to why wins have been few and far between for them this season as they come into tonight's game having lost nine straight.
And when it comes to road games against the East, Memphis’ struggles are just as pronounced with the Grizzlies losing all nine road games this season they have played against Eastern Conference teams.
Making matters worse for the Memphis is one of their top players Tyreke Evans who was expected to be shipped out prior to the NBA trade deadline, is still with the team and currently has a rib injury.
He is considered questionable for tonight’s game.
Memphis forward Chandler Parsons did not play at Miami on Saturday due to an illness, and he too is questionable for tonight’s game.
The one bright spot for Memphis' roster is the return of Marc Gasol tonight.
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The Grizzlies center did not play (rest) on Saturday. However, he is expected to go tonight.
That’s not a good thing for Boston, all too familiar with how dominant the 7-foot big man can be.
When these two met on Dec. 16, Boston came away with a 102-93 win but not before Gasol dropped 30 points and 10 rebounds on them.
Regardless of what Memphis is doing or what the Celtics have done in the last two games, Boston’s focus has to remain on continued growth.
That’s why Kyrie Irving refuses to make a big fuss about the Celtics having won their first two games following the all-star break.
“It’s only two games,” Irving told NBC Sports Boston following the Celtics’ win at New York on Saturday. “But we understand that in order to really get detailed about how we want to accomplish our big-picture, whatever that may be, we have to find consistency every single game and carry-over.
Irving added, “that’s the biggest thing for a young and developing team like we have. And as one of the leaders on the team, it’s my job to demand that every single night.”