The Boston Celtics will face the Memphis Grizzlies in the comfort of the TD Garden tonight. The Grizzlies are coming off of a loss against the Houston Rockets. That loss added more fuel to the fire of losing Marc Gasol indefinitely to an MCL sprain.
The Celtics know all too well how it feels to lose a franchise player. They’ve been playing without Rajon Rondo since earlier in the year, and they’ve just been a completely different team without him. In the loss to the Rockets, the Grizzlies seemed to be the same way. They weren’t as solid defensively and the offense didn’t have the fluidity that it normally carries. Gasol is a facilitator and scorer from that elbow sp
ot. Without him, a huge element of their offense is lost.
The Celtics need to take advantage of Gasol’s absence tonight and attack the Grizzlies. Here’s how they should do it.
1. Attack in Transition
The Memphis Grizzlies will give up points in transition. According to Synergy Sports, the Grizzlies give up 1.14 points per possession in transition opportunities. That ranks them 19th in the league–not a good mark. When their defense is set, they’re a much better team even if Gasol isn’t playing. They still have solid defenders all around the court. Mike Conley and Tony Allen will make it hard for the Celtics’ guards to get into a rhythm.
If they don’t allow the Grizzlies to settle and get into their defense, the Celtics will be able to score big tonight. They want to make this game an up and down one. If they can control the pace for the night, they should be able to come out with a win and improve their record.
2. Pack the Paint
Even with the addition of Mike Miller and the improvement in Mike Conley, I wouldn’t worry about the Grizzlies shooting the three if it’s not from the corner. The Grizzlies don’t have great shooters from above the break and are shooting 31% from deep right now. They’re one of the best teams in the league when it comes to posting up. They average .91 points per possession in the post according to Synergy and that ranks 5th best in the league. With beasts like Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol down low, it’s no wonder why they’re so good there.
But if they can force the perimeter guys to make plays and double down on the bigs, they should be fine. They must be aware of guys like Mike Miller who is still a great shooter from deep and Quincy Pondexter who will make you pay from the corners. But for the most part, it’s safe to send exotic double teams and try to get Randolph out of his rhythm. I’m sure that the Celtics have noticed that he isn’t the greatest passer out of those double teams, so we’ll see how things turn out for them.
3. Get Jeff Green Going
I know this is something that I preach consistently, but I can’t stress it enough. Jeff Green has to get going if the Celtics are going to win games. The Celtics can’t win if they don’t get scoring from somewhere. Green, Sullinger and Crawford have emerged as the best scorers on this Celtics team. If those three can’t get their numbers, then the Celtics really have no shot at winning games.