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Game 31 preview: Grizzlies at Celtics

Posted by Gary Dzen, Boston.com Staff  January 2, 2013 11:56 AM

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The Celtics look to recover from their road trip hangover tonight at TD Garden, but it won't be easy with the stingy Memphis Grizzlies in town.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Grizzlies are what the Celtics used to be, and hopefully still can be. Memphis has the best defensive rating (points allowed per 100 possessions) in the league. Opponents average 90 points per game against the Grizzlies, the lowest in the league. The Celtics, on the other hand, are coming off a trip out west in which they allowed 106, 101, and 118 points. On the season Boston's defensive rating is a respectable 13th in the NBA, but we've seen that it can be hit or miss for Doc Rivers and his team on that side of the ball.

The return of Avery Bradley should help in that department tonight, though if Rajon Rondo is absent the net gain might not be positive. Bradley isn't a savior, but ball pressure also isn't something to take for granted. If you're adding a player who is among the best at his position at a specific skill, you're going to improve.

Here are the details for tonight's game:

Tip-off: 7:30 p.m.
Records: Celtics (14-16), Grizzlies (19-6)
Broadcast info:CSNNE (Mike Gorman and Tommy Heinsohn), NBATV, WEEI/93.7 FM (Sean Grande and Cedric Maxwell)

Probable starters:

Celtics: PG: Rajon Rondo SG: Avery Bradley SF: Paul Pierce PF: Kevin Garnett C: Jason Collins

Grizzlies: PG: Mike Conley Jr. SG: Tony Allen SF: Rudy Gay PF: Zach Randolph C: Marc Gasol


Story lines:
Big-time bigs: Not every NBA team has a legitimate low-post presence for a big man. Memphis has two of them. The Celtics really, really do not match up well with the Grizzlies' Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol (think of the trouble the C's had with Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum on the Lakers a couple years ago). Expect Jason Collins to start because the C's do not have another option. Foul trouble could be an issue.

AB vs. TA: Avery Bradley's return comes on the night Tony Allen returns to Boston with an opposing team. Allen was the Celtics' former defensive stopper. Bradley's more reliable offensively and less prone to erratic dribbling. Allen's a little bigger and can guard taller players. Bradley's quicker. Should be fun to watch them both.

Stops: The Grizzlies are 22d in the league in points per game at 94.5. The Celtics need to keep them under 100 if they have any shot to win tonight. At 14-16, Rivers is looking for wins, but you can bet he'd be satisfied to start with consistent effort on defense.

@GlobeGaryDzen

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