Final, Grizzlies 110-106: There will be no miracle here. Despite a shocking comeback led by Jordan Crawford and Terrence Williams, the Celtics fell short after storming back from a 21-point deficit in the fourth quarter.
Jeryd Bayless scored 30 points to come within half a basket of his career high as seven of the eight Memphis players who played reached double figures. Paul Pierce led the Celtics with 26 points, but it was Crawford’s 21 points — 14 of which came in the fourth quarter — that turned a blowout into a nailbiter.
Williams had seven of his nine points in the fourth quarter as the Celtics held the Grizzlies to just 34 percent shooting in the final frame. The effort went wasted, though, thanks to the big hole the Celtics dug themselves into before the bench guys nearly bailed them out. The Celtics’ losing streak grew to four straight games.
Fourth quarter, :12.1, Grizzlies 108-104: Green and Z-Bo exchanged a pair of free throws, and we are back at a four-point game. Yay, free throws!
Fourth quarter, :18.5, Grizzlies 106-102: Bayless was the man who caught the inbound pass and was fouled, drilling both. That put him at 30 points for the game, one point short of his career high. Deep down, he has to be hoping the Celtics hit a shot, foul him and send him to the line for two more shots at a new career high, right?
Fourth quarter, :18.9, Grizzlies 104-102: In the famous words of Samuel L. Jackson in Jurassic Park: “Hold onto your butts.”
Crawford, who is now the second Celtic with more than 20 points, drew a shooting foul and hit both freebies to make this a two-point contest. Finally making a sub, Rivers tossed Bradley and Pierce into the game to help try to get a turnover.
Fourth quarter, :23.3, Grizzlies 104-100: Who are these guys? Bass and Green are the only regulars on the floor with Williams, Crawford and D.J. White, but that unit is giving Griz fans reason to be nervous.
Rivers appears to be ready to go the rest of the way with this group. Arthur hit a swooping hook shot to put Memphis up by a half-dozen, but White answered with a jumper from the left baseline to cut it back to four points.
Fourth quarter, 1:14, Grizzlies 102-98: With Williams and Crawford — yeah, those guys — at the helm, the Celtics are shockingly back in this game. Crawford is up to 19 points, including the three just now to pull Boston within four, and Williams has hit a nice array of pull-up jumpers and a three of his own to help the cause. Williams is 4-for-4 from the field with five boards, three assists and just one turnover. That is pretty close to a perfect game.
Fourth quarter, 6:23, Grizzlies 98-82: Oh, yeah. This is what a four-game losing streak feels like.
The Celtics have been able to fend off the long skid recently. Sunday would have marked the two-month anniversary of their first extended slump, when they lost six straight from Jan. 16 to Jan. 25. But now they are back in the “L” column, four-fold.
Pierce intentionally committed a foul at the 7:46 mark to allow himself to be substituted out. He will get some rest, but he will also have to watch the rest of this one from the front row.
Fourth quarter, 9:18, Grizzlies 90-75: All right, now the Grizzlies are just toying with the Celtics. Briefly — oh, so briefly — the Celtics worked the deficit down into single digits, but Memphis turned around and put a stop to that quickly.
Crawford helped out with that. When he got the ball ahead of the defense in the open court, for some reason he slowed up a lot. That gave Prince the opening to chase him down from behind and blocked the ball off the backboard. Crawford argued the ball had hit the glass first, which it had not, and his protests went over the line for a technical foul.
End of third quarter, Grizzlies 85-73: At this point, Rivers might as well roll with Williams and Crawford the rest of the way and see what happens. There is very little to be gained for the Celtics playing their regulars now, since it would take a lot of them to get back into this game playing their normal style. This may only be a 12-point game, but the way the Grizzlies are playing, that might as well be 30.
But Williams and Crawford bring an element of uncertainty, not just to the Griz but to the Celtics as well. If the Celtics end up needing an extra guard body in the playoffs, Rivers could benefit from seeing what those two can do against one of the top defensive squads in the league — and Conley, one of the best defensive point guards in the business.
Third quarter, 5:28, Grizzlies 75-62: Attention to detail traditionally is the Celtics’ calling card, but it has been conspicuously lacking lately. Slightly off-the-mark passes, pulling up just a bit on the run up the court, turning down marginally contested shots — these are the signs of a team that is not all there.
Pierce has scored nine points already since halftime, but the Celtics’ deficit has grown. The Grizzlies are just playing with more passion and focus, which is normally the case for this tough group. The fact that they are doing it against the Celtics is more surprising.
Halftime, Grizzlies 61-51: Rivers has not been this heated at officials in a while. He gave the entire crew of Bill Spooner, Marat Kogut and Zach Zarba an earful, especially after a clean block by Wilcox was called as a shooting foul for Davis.
Still, Rivers has worse things to worry about — namely, how to slow down Bayless. He cannot simply put Bradley on him, since Conley is capable of dicing up Crawford, Williams or Terry as well. Bayless has 20 points on 8-for-12 shooting (with all 12 shots being quality looks). The Griz are shooting 56 percent from the field and protecting the ball, as usual, to make life very tough on the Celtics defensively.
Pierce is stuck on just 13 points after Boston went cold as a group in the second quarter. Pierce missed both shots he took in the frame as the Celtics shot just 8-for-21.
Second quarter, 5:52, Grizzlies 47-40: Bradley got Davis earlier in the game, but Arthur got one back for Memphis. Bradley was late recovering on the break and he almost got shoved through the basket by Arthur, who drew an extra free throw out of the deal for good measure.
Second quarter, 6:36, Grizzlies 43-38: In one of the least understandable moves ever, Bayless risked getting thrown out of game in which he was ballin’. After draining a three over a helpless Terrence Williams to give him 16 points on 6-for-9 shooting, Bayless fouled Crawford hard on a crazy play.
After the contact, Crawford tossed Bayless the ball in a playground move, to which Bayless understandably took offense. But Bayless’ shove to Crawford afterward was curious. The refs gave Bayless a personal foul and a technical foul, and he is fortunate they did not give him more.
Second quarter, 9:02, Grizzlies 38-36: It’s Bayless time. The Arizona product, one of the best backup point guards in the NBA, is slicing up Crawford. He eluded Crawford, who got lost among the bigs in the paint, and drilled a wide-open 3-pointer from the top of the key to push Memphis into the lead.
End of first quarter, Celtics 31-29: It would be nice to give you some insight into what in the world Pierce was doing when he collared Jeryd Bayless near halfcourt on a fastbreak, but we’ve got nothing. Pierce was fortunate to only pick up a clear-path foul, since the language on the flagrant foul rule is pretty clear on above-the-neck contact.
Bayless went to the line and hit both free throws, they drained a step-back over Crawford on the ensuing possession. We are not saying Crawford is suspect defensively, but Bayless scored eight straight points after Crawford entered the game. So there is that.
Pierce is feeling good, too. He played the entire first 12 minutes, shooting 6-for-8 from the field for a game-high 13 points. Somehow, he also found time to pick up three assists in the meantime.
First quarter, 4:47, Celtics 18-14: The Grizzlies have worked their way back, as we expected they would, but the score is almost secondary to the highlight-reel dunk Bradley just provided. Pierce got caught up in the air and Bradley cut to the basket to give Pierce a safety valve. Bradley did more than just that, though. He kept going for a one-handed dunk over Davis, then nonchalantly jogged back up the court like it was a normal layup.
First quarter, 9:20, Celtics 10-2: If you can figure these guys out, please, share with the class.
Missing two starters, the Celtics have burst into the lead with a 10-0 run following a hustle layup by Tony Allen. Sure, Gasol and Randolph are off the floor, but Garnett and Lee are absent, too — and Pierce has only two of the Celtics’ 10 points to begin the game.
Hollins took a timeout, most likely as much to re-check his scouting report as to talk things over with his team.
8:02 p.m.: These starting fives are going to be pretty unfamiliar. Not only is Gasol out, but Randolph will also start the game on the bench after arriving to the arena late. Z-Bo will play, though, and probably a lot.
Darrell Arthur will take Randolph’s spot in the starting lineup. Terry will apparently start in the Celtics’ backcourt.
7:26 p.m.: Courtney Lee will not suit up for the game, which is no surprise. Lee twisted his ankle late in Friday’s game and did not return, so his absence was expected.
Lee will not be the only Celtic sidelined with ankle problems, though. Kevin Garnett, who never gave any indication of being hurt in Dallas, also has a mild sprained ankle and will miss the game. That could make things interesting for the Celtics down low, where they were always going to be severely undersized against the Griz. Jeff Green will start, but Celtics coach Doc Rivers was noncommittal as to whether Jordan Crawford or Jason Terry would start in the backcourt.
Memphis coach Lionel Hollins did Rivers a solid and will hold center Marc Gasol out of the proceedings as well. Still, Zach Randolph could have a field day against Chris Wilcox, Brandon Bass and Shavlik Randolph (no relation). Gasol reportedly re-aggravated an abdominal injury.
The projected starters, what is left of them, appear below.
Jordan Crawford/Jason Terry
8 a.m. ET: Jason Terry is not the sympathetic type. When he saw teammate Courtney Lee writhing in pain on the floor late in Friday’s loss in Dallas, Terry’s thought was a bit harsh.
“Get your [butt] up,” Terry thought to himself, as he told reporters.
Lee did not get up, at least not under his own power, and his status for Saturday’s game in Memphis is unclear. If Lee cannot play for the Celtics (36-32), Terry may move into the starting lineup and Terrence Williams and Jordan Crawford will be called upon to fill in off the bench. They have a tall task ahead of them, as the Grizzlies (46-22) are quietly one of the best teams in the NBA.
With a hounding defense and a post-heavy offense, the Griz have built the fifth-best record in the Western Conference. They are just a game behind Denver for the No. 3 spot and just a half-game behind the Clippers at No. 4, although that is irrelevant because the Pacific Division-leading Clips would be assured of a top-four seed even if they had an inferior record.
Join us for updates and analysis during the game, which tips off at 8 p.m. ET.