Celtics work overtime vs. the Grizzlies
Pierce leads way with 28 points
MEMPHIS — He got up from the folding chair after doing an interview, walked a few steps down the dim and narrow
He was glad it was finally over. Not just the game, but the week.
“Time to go home,’’ Paul Pierce said.
After going to Oklahoma City, Dallas, and Miami, last night’s game against Memphis was the one that could have easily slipped through the cracks.
The Grizzlies needed a win after losing four of five. The Celtics were not only still high from shoving the Heat in the South Beach sand for the second time in two weeks, but they had three days off staring them in the face after feeling like they had been on the road for a month.
“It’s felt like we’ve been on the road for a while,’’ said Pierce. “You get mental fatigue. Especially on a Saturday night when you should be at home watching the Pacquiao fight. That’s what I’m more disappointed at, because I’ve got the fight on DVR.’’
The Celtics had kept the Grizzlies at arm’s length for most of the night, even though they had to go shot for shot to do it. Rudy Gay hit a big one with 7.3 seconds left in regulation, banking in a 6-foot runner over Pierce to tie it at 99. Pierce had a chance to end it but with Gay’s 6-foot-8-inch frame stretched in front of him, he couldn’t get off his long jumper before the buzzer.
Memphis forced Boston to play its third overtime game in 11 days, but on the last day of a weeklong swing, the Celtics pulled out a 116-110 win.
After shooting 53.4 percent on the night, the Grizzlies fired blanks in the extra frame, while the Celtics hit a steady stream of big shots (4 of 6 in OT).
They went 3-1 on their first extended road trip of the season, also handing losses to the Thunder and the Heat. With playoff contenders scattered throughout their first 10 games, the stretch was tough enough. Playing six of them on the road, however, and letting three of them go to overtime made it that much more taxing on a veteran team that’s had to deal with its share of injuries in the early going.
“It’s been difficult, man,’’ Pierce said. “We’ve been tested with some great teams here on the road. Three overtime games. Being on the road all week, and being injured. Not even being healthy. We were just trying to get through the stretch.’’
“It’s been grueling, but mentally it’s been good for us,’’ Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. “We’re winning these games and down the road it’ll help us somewhere. I don’t know where. The great thing is we have rest after this.’’
Between the Bucks, Bulls, and now the Grizzlies, the Celtics are 3-0 in overtime games this season. Rivers joked that their age is a double-edged sword; They have the experience to grind out these games, but they definitely don’t need the extra miles.
“The longer these games go, I don’t know if it’s good for us,’’ he said, laughing.
Ray Allen, who had 2 points on 1 of 6 shooting going into the fourth quarter, finished with 15 points including a 3-pointer with 3:25 left that put the Celtics up, 104-99, and gave them breathing room. Pierce scored a game-high 28 points on 9 of 13 shooting. Rajon Rondo sprayed 17 assists around to go with his 11 points. Kevin Garnett scored 18 points and grabbed a team-high nine rebounds.
The Celtics’ frontcourt was thin with Jermaine O’Neal returning to Boston Friday to have his sore left knee examined. Carrying a heavier load than normal, Shaquille O’Neal (23 minutes) had his biggest scoring night of the season dropping 18 points on 7-of-10 shooting. After giving the Celtics a lift Thursday in Miami, Nate Robinson came through again with 15 points off the bench, including a trio of 3-pointers.
The Grizzlies shot 55.7 percent and finished with all of their starters in double figures. Zach Randolph led the way missing just three shots in a 21-point, 11-rebound effort. Facing the Celtics for the first time since signing a three-year deal with Memphis in the offseason, Tony Allen scored 11 points in 20 minutes.
The reward for a successful road trip is a couple of days off to work in Delonte West, who after sitting out the first 10 games due to a league suspension will make his debut Wednesday night against the Wizards. But the Celtics head back on the road next Sunday for a Toronto-Atlanta back-to-back.
“It kind of makes you numb,’’ Ray Allen said. “You kind of live partially on the road and then when you’re home you’re kind of like a walking zombie because you know you either just came off the road or you’re going back on the road.
“You keep a bag by the door, like you’re about to get kicked out of the house. Just in case.’’