Celtics-Grizzlies review: What we saw

663000.jpg

Celtics-Grizzlies review: What we saw

BOSTON The Boston Celtics continue to play their way into the discussion of elite NBA teams, pulling away 98-80 for their fourth straight win. And this game, like so many, was won on multiple levels by the Green Team. But when you look at the final numbers, once again it's clear that the Celtic's defense is carrying the day. "Defense is key the last three weeks for us," said C's coach Doc Rivers. "Our guys have bought into it."

And that strong play defensively has been complimented by some pretty solid play on offense.

Strong defense and a much-improved offense were just two of the many factors that played a role in the Celtics extending their winning streak to four in a row. We take a look at some of the keys coming in, and how things actually played out along those lines.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR - Although you don't hear his name - his first name, at least - too often, Memphis center Marc Gasol is a player the Celtics have to be concerned about. Gasol, the younger brother of Los Angeles Lakers forward Pau Gasol, is one of 12 NBA players averaging a double-double of points and rebounds this season. As much as his scoring helps Memphis, he does a nice job of clogging up the lane as well. His presence is a big reason why the Grizzlies are only giving up 37.7 points per game in the paint which ranks 5th in the NBA.

WHAT WE SAW: With no Zach Randolph (torn MCL), the Celtics paid close attention to Marc Gasol all game. He had seven points, with Jermaine O'Neal leading the defensive charge by limiting him to seven points on 3-for-14 shooting from the field. "They (Celtics) know what we want to get," Gasol said. "We want to go inside and attack the paint so they think that way, put all five guys in the paint forcing us to take the open jumper and that's not who we are."

MATCHUP TO WATCH - Ray Allen vs. Tony Allen. Having spent the bulk of his career with the Celtics, few have a better understanding and feel for how to contain Ray Allen. Plus, Tony Allen is a heck of a defender whose defensive presence in Memphis is similar to how Kevin Garnett is viewed by the Celtics. "He's like an Army General," Grizzlies guard Mike Conley told the Commercial-Appeal. "He says crazy things but goes out there and backs it up." However, Ray Allen has shown lately that he can still have a major impact on the game without scoring, if teams spend too much time and effort keying in on him. Averaging 2.8 assists per game this season, Ray Allen has averaged five assists in Boston's last three games which includes a season-high eight assists in Boston's 93-90 win at Cleveland on Jan. 31.

WHAT WE SAW: So much for this matchup. Tony Allen was a late-game scratch with a knee and hip injury. That didn't stop the ever-unpredictable Allen from tossing up a few literary pearls of wisdom prior to the game. When asked about his defense, Allen said, "My first priority when I come into the game, is putting it on the defensive end. That's how I look at it. I'm trained by Doc Rivers, birthed by (former Oklahoma State coach) Eddie Sutton. That's just how I look at everything." As for Ray Allen, he had a rare off night shooting the ball. He missed six of his seven shots in the first half, and finished with 12 points on 4-for-14 shooting.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Although he's not one of Boston's main attractions, Chris Wilcox is starting to provide just what the Celtics need in the front-court. In Boston's 91-89 win over New York on Friday, Wilcox was a huge part of the win despite some less-than-stellar numbers. He had six points and four rebounds, all of which were offensive boards. "I thought Chris Wilcox was the hero," said C's coach Doc Rivers after the Knicks win.

WHAT WE SAW: Wilcox was wildly effective in limited minutes for the Celtics. In just six minutes - all in the first quarter - he had 10 points on 4-for-4 shooting from the field. It was only the second game all season in which Wilcox reached double figures scoring. He finished with 12 points while making all five of his shot attempts, in addition to grabbing five rebounds. "I just wanted to come out and be aggressive and bring energy," Wilcox said. "And that's what I did."

STAT TO TRACK: Memphis leads the NBA in steals (10.6) per game, which means Boston's transition defense will have its hands full today. Those turnovers are a big part of why the Grizzlies average 17.3 fast-break points per game, which ranks No. 3 in the NBA. Meanwhile, Boston's defense as a whole has been solid this season. They have the league's second-best scoring defense, giving up just 87 points per game. And they're just as stingy when it comes to limiting fast-break scoring, giving up just 10 points per game which ranks No. 2 in the NBA.

WHAT WE SAW: The numbers on this game are a bit deceiving. Although the Celtics turned the ball over 20 times (for 22 points), this was not a game in which the Grizzlie's defense made a huge impact. Of those points off turnovers, only 10 came via fast break. Meanwhile the Celtics, not known for their running game this season, had 26 fast break points.

Stevens’ first practice observation: ‘We’re going to be able to fly around’

Stevens’ first practice observation: ‘We’re going to be able to fly around’

WALTHAM, Mass. –  Before the Celtics fully stretched prior to their first practice of the season, coach Brad Stevens had his players go 5-on-5 in a not-live breakdown while going at about 30 percent full speed or similar to what they would do in a walk-through.

“If that was 30 percent, we’re going to be able to fly around,” said Stevens. “I think it was just a misjudging of what 30 percent is. They were flying early on in practice. We have to be able to fully rotate, we have to guard different positions, you gotta be able to read the game instinctively and obviously there’s an athletic component that allows you to do so effectively.”

Regardless, the Celtics are a team that will rely more on their athleticism in past seasons in order to be effective and live up to the lofty expectations so many have for them this season.

“We have a real good team, real athletic at a lot of spots,” Celtics forward Amir Johnson told CSNNE.com. “We definitely got a couple more high-flyers in the building this year.”

He’s speaking about Gerald Green, a former Slam Dunk champion, and Jaylen Brown, who is considered one of the more athletic players among this year’s rookie class.

And that athleticism was indeed on display in the early moments of the team’s first practice of the season.

But what makes the Celtics a team that could potentially be a major player in the East, is that the increased athleticism is now married to a team whose skill level is underrated.

Talent and athleticism is certainly a bonus for any team.

But the Celtics know the road to being among the game’s elite is long and winding, a journey that they are just beginning to embark on right now.

And while there are plenty of directions that Stevens can put a greater focus on in these early days, it doesn’t appear the Celtics' leader will go that route.

“We’ve got a lot being installed,” Stevens said. “We’ll keep the emphasis on being a blue-collar team and playing together.”

 

 

 

Tuesday’s Red Sox-Yankees lineups: Price tries to nail down A.L. East clincher in Bronx

red_sox_david_price2_072816.jpg

Tuesday’s Red Sox-Yankees lineups: Price tries to nail down A.L. East clincher in Bronx

The Red Sox can clinch the A.L. East title for the first time since 2013, and do it at the home of their arch rivals, with a victory at Yankee Stadium tonight. 

Left-hander David Price (17-8, 3.91) takes the mound with the Red Sox magic number at 1. A Sox win, or a Toronto Blue Jays’ loss to the Baltimore Orioles, will give Boston the division title.

Brock Holt gets the start at third and Andrew Benintendi is in left field against Yankees right-hander Luis Cessa (4-3, 4.30).

The Red Sox (92-64) have the best record in the A.L., just ahead of the Texas Rangers (92-65), who have clinched the A.L. West title. 

The lineups:

RED SOX

Dustin Pedroia 2B

Xander Bogaerts SS

David Ortiz DH

Mookie Betts RF

Hanley Ramirez 1B

Brock Holt 3B

Jackie Bradley Jr. CF

Sandy Leon C

Andrew Benintendi LF

David Price LHP

 

YANKEES

Brett Gardner LF

Jacoby Ellsbury CF

Gary Sanchez DH

Starlin Castro 2B

Chase Headley 3B

Didi Gregorius SS

Aaron Hicks RF

Austin Romine C

Tyler Austin 1B

Luis Cessa RHP