Not all losses are created equal, as the Boston Celtics proved Monday against the Memphis Grizzlies.
The Celtics already knew they would be without Kemba Walker due to it being the second night of a back-to-back, but shortly before tipoff Jayson Tatum was not feeling well and the team decided to hold him out. It meant two of Boston’s most impactful offensive players would not take the floor.
The Celtics responded with a shorthanded effort that head coach Brad Stevens — along with both Jaylen Brown and Jeff Teague — was proud of, despite the fact in came in a 132-126 overtime loss in Memphis.
“You can go back to the last five or six minutes and some of our bench was playing great basketball,” Stevens told reporters after the game. “It doesn’t mean they’re always necessarily able to generate the best shot, obviously those guys are still growing and learning, but that’s how we want to play. That’s our best chance of utilizing our team to its fullest and it allows you, kind of like the defensive stuff, to be in a game like this where you’re shorthanded.”
Brown, who scored a team-high 27 points, probably expected he would have to shoulder the load, but he got plenty of help as five Celtics — Teague (26), Robert Williams (17), Marcus Smart (16) and Daniel Theis (13) — scored in double figures. The Celtics assisted on 31 of their 47 made field goals, too.
“We had this one,” Brown told reporters. “We played really hard, had a lot of guys step up, you know, step into roles they don’t usually play in. So, I was proud of that. But we still could have got this win. It’s definitely one we want back. … So, there was definitely some stuff, some miscommunications, some defense and things like that, but I would agree with Brad (Stevens), I thought that was a hard-fought game on our end.”
Teague added: “As a group, I think we played hard and I think our group is connected. Not having Kemba and Jayson is pretty tough, but I think the guys who had an opportunity to play tonight played hard.”
Monday’s effort comes one night after the Celtics left Boston on an optimistic note after a win over the Orlando Magic. So, the fact that Boston has showed an uptick in effort and desire to win in a second-consecutive game is a step in the right direction.
“I think the last two games have been a lot more like Celtics basketball,” Stevens said. “I’m disappointed we didn’t play better in overtime… but they were battling. We made a lot of tough plays. We made a lot plays to give ourselves a chance the last 30-45 seconds of the game in regulation, that was good, poised stuff. So, we can build off the last two nights. And we’ve got to. This is disappointing, but it’s also more of who we want to look like at least.”
Here are some other thoughts from Celtics-Grizzlies:
— Stevens offered an update on Tatum after the game.
“He did not feel good when he got to the gym. He was complaining of some dizziness. Went out and shot, he wanted to go through and try to shoot,” Stevens said. “(He) didn?t feel great afterwards so we decided to not play him. I hope it’s nothing big. He’s been tested every day. I would guess it’s just general illness. I hope he’s back soon.”
— The Grizzlies’ advantage inside was astounding. Memphis out-scored Boston 80-54 in the paint while compiling a 54-43 edge on the glass including a 17-5 margin in offensive rebounds.
“I thought that was the difference in the game, clearly,” Stevens said. “Their baskets were very physical, you could feel those runs there (and it) didn’t feel like there was much to stop it.”
— Brown was 10-for-18 from long range against the Magic and he followed it up with 11 3-point attempts Monday. He said it’s part of what the team wants him to do, rather than stick to his traditional mid-range game.
“But I guess I’ve been challenged to look more for threes. They want me to look for my 3-point shot, they think that’s a good shot,” Brown said. “I believe in our coaching staff and believe in what they put in front of me so any chance I have a good look, I’m going to take it. The mid-range shot is a comfortable shot for me, but I want to do what’s best for our team. So whatever they ask me to do I’m going to do.”
— The 21-22 Celtics will travel to Milwaukee for a two-game series against the Bucks beginning Wednesday.