The Boston Celtics couldn’t have started Tuesday’s game against the Memphis Grizzlies much worse on offense, yet they still made things very interesting in the second half.
The Celtics trailed by 17 midway through the third quarter but came all the way back to force overtime, and they ultimately earned a hard-fought 112-109 victory over the Grizzlies at FedExForum.
Isaiah Thomas led all scorers with a career-high 44 points against the best defense in the league. Avery Bradley (16 points), Al Horford (17 points, 14 rebounds), Jae Crowder (11 points, six rebounds) and Kelly Olynyk (10 points) also scored in double-figures for Boston. Marc Gasol and Troy Daniels led the way for Memphis with 24 points apiece.
With the win, the Celtics improved to 16-12, while the Grizzlies dropped to 18-12.
Here’s how it all went down.
Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder, Amir Johnson, Al Horford.
WELL, THAT WAS UGLY
The offense in the first quarter was beyond terrifying. The Grizzlies made 30.4 percent of their shots, and the C’s weren’t much better at 31.6 percent. Still, Memphis enjoyed a 22-15 lead heading into the second quarter, which seemed even bigger with the way both teams were playing. Boston went 0-for-6 from 3-point range and only had eight rebounds, while Memphis at least made two 3-pointers and had 17 rebounds.
It didn’t get much better in the second, as the Grizzlies took a 45-31 lead into the break. Yes, you read that right — the C’s only scored 31 points in the first half. The Celtics’ shooting percentage dropped to 30 percent, as they hit just 1 of 15 3-point attempts for a dismal 7.1 percent. Memphis by no means shot the ball well either, but it still was better than Boston. Gasol led the way with 15 points in the first half, while Thomas led the C’s with eight.
It appeared Memphis was running away with things after it opened a 61-44 lead midway through the third quarter, but Boston responded with an impressive 18-5 run to close the gap to four points. However, the Grizzlies scored five straight points at the end of the frame to take a 71-62 lead into the fourth. The C’s made five 3-pointers in the third, which certainly helped cut the deficit.
But the Grizzlies’ lead didn’t last for too long. Thomas scored 12 points over the first four-plus minutes of the fourth, and the C’s knotted things up at 78-78 with 7:52 remaining. Then, with just over four minutes left, Boston took an 86-85 lead on a Bradley basket. The game remained close throughout the final minutes, and the Celtics had a chance to win the game, but Horford missed another key layup.
Boston spread the wealth early in overtime to take a 105-103 lead with buckets from Crowder, Horford and Thomas, as well an Olynyk free throw after Zach Randolph was assessed a flagrant two for an elbow to Olynyk’s neck. Tony Allen put the Grizzlies back up 106-105 with just over one minute remaining, but Thomas responded with two free throws and Horford followed with a tough layup, giving Boston the lead for good.
PLAY OF THE GAME
So, this sequence was kind of important.
The Celtics will continue their stretch of six straight games against potential playoff teams Thursday in Indiana against the Pacers. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. ET.
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