There are no two ways around it: the Boston Celtics were limping into the NBA All-Star break.
The Celtics dropped three straight games leading into the star-studded spectacle in Los Angeles, a product of the sluggish play Boston demonstrated in the first few weeks of February.
But it’s safe to say the C’s made the most of their eight days off. The Celtics returned from the All-Star break with back-to-back road victories over the Detroit Pistons and New York Knicks, and Monday, the green extended its win streak to three by topping the Memphis Grizzlies 109-98 at TD Garden.
The schedule makers clearly lent the Celtics a hand in their time of need. The Pistons and Knicks both are out of playoff contention in the weak Eastern Conference, and the Grizzlies likely will be one of the first teams to pick in the 2018 NBA Draft. Tacking on defeats after extended rest could have been demoralizing for Boston, but it did what it needed to do to leave its losing ways on the other side of the hiatus.
Since the turn of the new year, the Celtics often shot themselves in the foot by playing to their competition. It was the exact opposite of the team’s play to start the season, which allowed Boston to rattle off a 16-game win streak from late October to late November. In a tight race for the conference crown with the likes of the Toronto Raptors and Cleveland Cavaliers, the Celtics must take care of business against teams they’re supposed to beat.
This especially is true considering Boston’s remaining schedule. Out of the final 20 regular-season matchups in the 2017-18 campaign, 11 are against teams currently in the playoffs, including a road game against the Houston Rockets on Saturday and pairs of matchups against the Raptors and Washington Wizards. If the C’s want to own home-court advantage in the East, grabbing wins against lowly opponents is crucial.
Here are some other notes from Celtics-Grizzlies:
— Kyrie Irving posted a game-high 25 points in only 24 minutes of action.
— Daniel Theis (12 points) has scored in double figures in two of his last three games. Theis’ role could continue to increase down the stretch, as Aron Baynes currently is battling an elbow sprain and Greg Monroe hasn’t proved to be effective since joining the team.
— Terry Rozier provided a great lift off the bench with 15 points. The third-year guard now has scored in double figures in a career-best 11 consecutive games.
— The Grizzlies’ loss extends their losing streak to 10 (!) games. They haven’t won a game since Jan. 29.
— Boston will try to stay hot Wednesday when it hosts the Charlotte Hornets, who currently are riding a four-game win streak of their own.
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