A. Sherrod Blakely
BOSTON Healthy. Hurt. It doesn't really matter much these days for the Boston Celtics, whose under-manned lineup continues to overwhelm opponents with a suffocating display defensively.
You can add the Memphis Grizzlies to the teams Boston (13-10) has defended well, with the C's coming away with a 98-80 win.
After a relatively close first half, Boston began to trend toward blowout status in the fourth quarter. Kevin Garnett led all scorers with 24 points that included another 3-pointer - his third straight game with at least one 3-pointer made.
Memphis did have former UConn star Rudy Gay, who led the Grizzlies with 21 points and seven rebounds.
It became all but official with 3:31 to play, as the C's emptied their bench with a 20-point lead.
The victory extends Boston's winning streak to four in a row, which ties their longest string of wins this season.
Boston began the game on a sour note by not having Brandon Bass available. Bass, one of the NBA's top reserves this season, had some swelling in his left knee and was unavailable. He is being listed as day-to-day.
But as we've seen many times with the Celtics of late, injuries only serve as an opportunity for someone else to step in and contribute.
Celtics coach Doc Rivers said before the game that Chris Wilcox and JaJuan Johnson would log most of the minutes in Bass' absence.
Getting one of the two playing well would have been nice.
Truth be told, both made the most of their increased role.
First there was Wilcox, had had 12 points off the bench - 10 of which came in the first quarter.
Johnson saw rare first-half action on Sunday, and didn't waste much time showcasing an offensive game that proved to be one of the many challenges facing the Grizzlies.
The 6-foot-9 rookie finished with 10 points, his second straight game scoring in double figures.
As for the Grizzlies, they also have had their share of key players out with injuries. Zach Randolph has been out for all but four games this season with a torn MCL injury. And just minutes before tip-off, Memphis found out they wouldn't have Tony Allen because of a heel and hip injury.