No, last night was not a mirage, or a drunken hallucination; the Grizzlies really did lose to the Pelicans. Yeah, I was as shocked as you are. Luckily, they’ll have an immediate opportunity to right the ship as they host the Boston Celtics at Fed Ex Forum tonight.
The Celtics have struggled a bit lately, dropping each of their last three games, including 104-94 defeat at the hands of the Dallas Mavericks last night. After initially rallying around the injury to Rajon Rondo in January, the Celtics are finally starting to feel their limitations. This team has a lot of talent and experience, but they lack a solidifying presence at the point guard position, and it’s finally starting to show. Avery Bradley is great on the defensive end, and Paul Pierce has managed to pick up the slack with regards to assists, but Rondo’s presence can never be fully replicated, and that fact is finally starting to dawn on the Celtics.
Of course, if the Rondo injury were the only problem the Celtics were facing they might still be doing okay, but that’s not the case. Tonight, they’ll once again be without Kevin Garnett and Courtney Lee, both of whom are out with sprained left ankles. They can overcome the loss of Lee, but KG is a different story. He’s the emotional leader of the team, and while his skills have diminished somewhat over the years, he’s still one of the better big men in the league. KG’s absence will once again force Brandon Bass into the starting lineup. Bass is a solid-but-unspectacular player (although he did have a nice dunk against the Heat on Monday) who will have a difficult time dealing with Zach Randolph.
Jeff Green will likely start for the Celtics tonight as well. Green broke onto the scene in Oklahoma City, but had initially been underwhelming after going to the Celtics. He turned that around against the Heat on Monday, exploding for a 43-point performance, and reminding many why people were so high on him to begin with.
Without Lee or Garnett, the Celtics bench will be really stretched tonight. 6th man Jason Terry was humiliated by LeBron James in one of the best dunks of the year on Monday, but on the plus side, he’s also finally beginning to look comfortable in the Celtics lineup. The C’s also brought in Jason Crawford at the trade deadline, swapping him for Jason Collins. Say what you will about Crawford’s game, but the Celtics definitely won that deal. Since arriving in Boston, however, Crawford has played a far smaller role in the offense than he did with the Wizards (he averaged 13.2 points per game in Washington, compared to just 7.0 in Boston). However, the injury to Lee might give him a great chance to show his stuff. He’s not a great shooter (.400 from the field on his career), but when he heats up he can be pretty dangerous. Still, the Grizzlies are an unlikely team for Crawford to succeed against, since he will likely have Tony Allen in his face all night.
Both of these teams are known for their stingy defense (though the Celtics have fallen off a bit lately), so we can likely expect a low scoring game tonight. With Boston shorthanded, the Grizzlies need to take advantage of their lack of depth, and put the memory of last night’s embarrassing loss behind them. As long as Paul Pierce doesn’t wake up thinking it’s 2005, they have a pretty good shot.