Sunday, December 17, 2017

Celtics 102, Grizzlies 93: Five Thoughts

Posted By on Sun, Dec 17, 2017 at 8:19 AM

click to enlarge LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski

This one's going to be brief, because while there was a lot going on in the Grizzlies' 102-93 loss to the Boston Celtics last night, none of it is particularly complicated. The Celtics came into town as the best team in the Eastern Conference, albeit one which was struggling a little, having dropped a game in Utah the night before. The Grizzlies found themselves in a big hole in the first half after posting a first quarter in which they only scored 12 points while allowing Boston to score 31. It seemed like Boston was trying to run up a big lead so they could catch their breath and coast the rest of the way using their young guys.

And then. Down only 48-40 at halftime, the Griz uncorked one of their best third quarters of the year, featuring a 21 point outburst from Marc Gasol (including 4-5 from 3 point range) and some of the best defensive sequences the Grizzlies have put forward in months (since they were, y'know, good). Headed into the final frame the Griz had a 2 point lead, but they had to rest Gasol, who had played the entire 3rd and needed to sit for a minute before closing things out...

...and that was all it took. The Celtics opened the 4th quarter on a big run with Gasol on the bench, and the Grizzlies never caught up again. That was the ballgame. There were plenty of things to be encouraged by, but none of them really connected when the game was slipping away. Boston is an elite team, and there's a reason for that. A week ago I'm not sure the home team would've been able to weather the first blow the Celtics delivered, but last night they got it together and challenged. The truth of the matter is that there are moral victories for a team that has struggled this badly. It matters that they almost won. But it doesn't help the playoff standings.

Five Thoughts

Marc Gasol's third quarter was reassuring. He can still be dominant when he wants to/gets going. Gasol's mental state is always precarious, but lately it's been clear that he's in his own head, that he's not letting the game come to him. The Grizzlies Twitter responses to Gasol's quarter ranged from "why can't he do this all the time" to "trade him while he can still be this good" to "he's doing this because he wants to be traded to Boston" and... that's why Twitter is bad. It's OK to enjoy things. I enjoyed Gasol's third quarter, a truly dominant display. He can't/won't do it often, but when he does, Gasol's still an absolute force in games like this.

click to enlarge LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski

Jarell Martin wasn't horrible, for the second night in a row. Jarell has been drifting all season, since his first couple of games as a starter way back in October. At times it looked like the Grizzlies made a mistake in keeping him and cutting Rade Zagorac—not because Rade was good but because Jarell's looked so lost. But last night, building on a decent second half against the Hawks, we saw a little bit of what Jarell can be at the NBA level: everywhere, all the time, using his speed and athleticism, which are crazy for a guy his size, to make plays. His defense still isn't good, but it's not so bad he's unplayable.

After the game I asked interim coach JB Bickerstaff what Martin's doing differently in these games where he's playing well. "He's got to play at that speed the whole time he's on the floor," Bickerstaff said. And when he does, obviously, he can contribute against even the best teams in the league.

Mario Chalmers and James Ennis played a lot and didn't do very much. Ennis was a big part of the rotation before Fizdale moved him out of the starting lineup for Chandler Parsons. Since then, he's been inconsistent. He didn't play at all against Atlanta, and last night, in 12 minutes, he just didn't get anything going. If Ennis has to start to play well, maybe he should just start and never play more than what he did last night.

Chalmers was more concerning. He's struggled all year, but last night his shot selection was poor, and his passing was just as inconsistent as it's been all year. At some point, he's going to become unplayable, and that point may come sooner rather than later, but with Kobi Simmons on a two-way deal, there's not really anybody else to throw into the backup spot with Conley out. Not anybody currently on the roster, anyway. I'm just not sure "savvy vet" is ever going to be Chalmers' role. I don't think that's who he is, and I don't think he's wired to play that way.

Ben McLemore was atrocious. Single game plus/minus is mostly useless because it's so dependent on lineups. That McLemore was -12 in five minutes feels right even though the stat is unreliable. This guy just isn't very good, and I don't think he'll be better if he goes through a training camp next year. It's a bad signing and a black hole in the Grizzlies' wing rotation. He's making more money than Tyreke Evans. There is no fairness in this world. He's a nice guy, and he seems well-liked, but he just doesn't have the court awareness to make the right play.

click to enlarge Deyonta Davis, taking the best shot available to him - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • Deyonta Davis, taking the best shot available to him

The Grizzlies have to be willing to take the best shot available. That's a direct quote from Bickerstaff in the postgame. Guys are passing up shots they should take and taking shots they should pass up. The offense, however long after the Fizdale firing, is still mostly a mess. Guys aren't moving enough, they're not sure where to do, and they're not sure how to play together. Over the last week—since the OKC game, excluding the 4th quarter against Miami—the Griz have started to find a little bit of cohesion on the defensive end, but it's still not there offensively. One thing at a time, I guess.

Tweet of the Night

Speaking of Jarell Martin's athleticism, he dunked over (literally over) two dudes last night. This replay doesn't really do justice to how awesome this was, but you still get a sense for it. He has the tools to be Mr. Putback:

Up Next

The Grizzlies don't play again until Wednesday, and when they do, it's... the Warriors. On the road. Should be fine.


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