Before a six-game home stand, the Grizzlies flew to Boston looking to extend a four-game road win streak and sweep the season series against Tony Allen’s former team. Memphis led by 13 after a nearly perfect first quarter in which 9 men played, tallying 27 points (all in the paint) and no turnovers and finishing on an 11-0 run. Memphis gave no ground in the second quarter and took the 13-point lead into halftime on 50% shooting. The Celtics hung around in the third quarter courtsey of second-chance points, but could not pull the lead within 9. With Ed Davis’ help off the bench, the Grizzlies extended their lead to 15 in the fourth and withstood a late push by Boston to escape with a 100-93 win.
Mike Conley’s Offense: After a miserable 2-14 night against the Rockets, Mike was in an early groove tonight. He hit 5 of his 6 shots in the first quarter and finished one assist shy of a double-double at 14 and 9. He was mostly quiet after the first, but also did not give up a single steal to ball-hawking Avery Bradley, which is a win on any night.
Kosta Koufos’ Defense: Koufos is showing himself to be a formidable rim protector and rebounder. For a team plagued by poor defensive rotations early in the season, Koufos’ weak side help defense is a pleasure to watch. After grabbing 7 offensive rebounds against the Rockets, Koufos finished with 13 total tonight to go with 3 blocks, a steal, and 7 points. His effort was reflected in an impressive +10 record despite a poor (3-11) shooting night.
Ed Davis’ Energy: This is the Ed Davis we were promised! His line doesn’t jump off the final stat sheet, except for one column: +13. The rest of his numbers — 11 points, 7 rebounds, and 3 blocks — were all season highs, and they all came in 24 (mostly second-half) minutes. This Boston team is one of the more undisiplined squads the Grizzlies will face all year, but that suits Davis’ somewhat chaotic style of play.
Bench Production: The Grizzlies bench, which has been embarrassed in a few games this season, outscored the Celtics’ bench 45 to 17. This allowed Memphis to maintain a double digit lead through three and a half quarters, which is a really comforting way to play a basketball game. Seriously, I recommend it.
Z-Bo’s Sleepy Night: Memphis has a size advantage over Boston on the front line, which usually means a big night for Randolph. Instead, he was bullied by Jared Sullinger and Brandon Bass throughout the first half (1-5), and spent a little too much time consulting the refs. He finished with 13 points, 7 rebounds, and a handful of missed layups. His best play of the night, bizarrely, was in transition defense, when he stole an errant lob from Bass, saved the ball in bounds, and found Mike Conley at mid-court leading to an Ed Davis dunk attempt (he was fouled, but converted both free throws).
Nick Calathes starting the fourth quarter with a shrinking 10 point lead felt like an unnecessary risk. The Grizzlies were in much the same position against Houston, when the all-bench unit that played the first half of the fourth quarter opened the door for the Rockets. If you need Conley rested for the end of the game, playing JB at the point seems like a wiser, safer option in these situations. (Right after I wrote that, Calathes threw up a beautiful lob for Ed Davis. Figures.)
48 minutes: This is the second game in a row the Grizzlies have left early. With a 15 point lead halfway through the fourth, it looked like an easy runaway win until the Celts hit five threes to make Memphis earn it at the free throw line — which they did. Not only is this a threat to the Win/Loss column (as it was against Houston), but it also puts unnecessary wear and tear on the Grizzlies starters. After Bradley’s three made it a four-point game with under 30 seconds to go, Joerger called a timeout and was as demonstrably angry as I’ve seen him in a huddle all year. (Mike Miller left Bradley open on the play, and also could have been called for a foul on a poor close-out; but Miller being on the floor at all in obvious defense situation was the real issue.)
The Grizzlies face the reeling Nets in Fedex Forum on Saturday at 7:00 p.m. CT.