The Celtics will be the 2-seed: 5 takeaways vs. Grizzlies

Jayson Tatum's 31 points helped turn the regular-season finale into a laugher.

Celtics Grizzlies
Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum handles the ball against Memphis Grizzlies guard Ziaire Williams. AP Photo/Brandon Dill

Prior to Sunday’s game, with the 2-seed still in play, Ime Udoka said the Celtics would play normally and let the chips fall where they may.

Sure enough, the Celtics did what they have been doing for months now — they annihilated their opponent, this time the Grizzlies sans any of their best players. Jayson Tatum poured in 31 points on comically efficient 11-for-14 shooting, which led the Celtics to a 139-110 win that heavily featured the bench mob in the fourth quarter.

Now the Celtics know where they stack up — the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference. In a three-way tie at the top of the Eastern Conference standings, the Celtics hold the tiebreaker over the Bucks (due to record against Eastern Conference playoff opponents) and the 76ers (due to head-to-head record). They will face either the Cavaliers or the Nets. The trade-off for potentially facing the Nets in the first round — an admittedly daunting task, thanks to Kevin Durant — is that if the Celtics beat their first-round opponent, they get home-court advantage against their second-round opponent (presumably the Bucks).


In the playoffs, everything is hard — a first-round series against the Cavaliers, while preferable, certainly wouldn’t be a vacation. If the Celtics see themselves as contenders, they should be able to beat a flawed, beat-up Nets team. After all, if they lose to the Nets, were they ever really contenders to begin with?

The Celtics ended the regular season with a laugher — the kind of game where Tatum trash-talked Ja Morant’s father Tee, then later dapped him up. It was the kind of game where the bench clamored in the fourth-quarter for Celtics two-way player Matt Ryan to score his first NBA basket, where Malik Fitts showed off his bounce with an enormous fourth-quarter dunk, and where Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins challenged a foul call after a spectacular garbage-time block by Yves Pons to make sure his end-of-the-bench big man got credit (genuinely a Coach of the Year move by Jenkins).

Sunday’s game will probably be the Celtics’ last easy game for a long time.

Other takeaways

2. If you missed it during the game, you probably want to see Jayson Tatum saying “Wooooow” at Tee Morant.

Tatum was spectacular — a perfect warm-up for the Celtics’ best player with the start of the playoffs approaching. In the first half, he scored 25 of his 31 points and had the opportunity to score more — a late steal started a transition opportunity right before the break. Instead, Tatum laced a pass to Payton Pritchard for a layup that helped build a lead which allowed him to sit down after just 26 minutes.


The Celtics are great for many reasons, not least of which is Tatum’s decision to both be great and to help everyone else be great too.

3. Brian Scalabrine noted on the NBC Sports Boston broadcast the many connections between the Celtics and the Nets. Kyrie Irving is the obvious one, but Ime Udoka also spent his last season as an assistant coach — probably his last season for a long time as an assistant — on Steve Nash’s bench.

Maybe the most interesting connection if the Celtics play the Nets (because let’s admit it, the Kyrie angle is pretty played out): Last season, the Celtics were in the play-in, and they faced the Nets in the first round. Earlier this season, the Celtics and Nets were in position to face each other in the play-in tournament again … with the Celtics as the 8-seed and the Nets at No. 1.

A whole lot of things have changed in just a few short months.

4. Al Horford finished with 13 points on 6-for-8 shooting, returning from a back issue that held him out of the Celtics’ game against the Bulls.

“I think these next few days will be very good for me,” Horford said. “I should be fine by the time we get going again.”


For Horford, Sunday’s finale felt like an opportunity to reflect on the fact that he was back in a place he wanted to be.

“Just very grateful to be back here,” he said. “To be back in this position. To be back playing with our team. And with this group of guys. It’s been pretty cool for me this year to almost sit back and see how much Jayson has grown, Jaylen [Brown], Marcus [Smart] – and really reflect on it. Getting off the plane yesterday, I was screaming to the guys. I was like, ‘Game 82.’ Like, ‘Yo, Game 82.’

“Just excited. It’s exciting, man. We made it through the season. We’re at the point that we want to be. And that was just perspective for me. Like, Game 82, I’m here, we’re doing this, it’s going how we want. And I’m just very grateful.”

5. Do the Celtics feel like they sent a message to the rest of the Eastern Conference by stepping up to claim the 2-seed?

“I think so,” Horford said. “I think it’s pretty clear. We obviously understand what’s ahead, but it’s about us and putting ourselves in the best position that we feel like we can be. And we’re ready man. We’re ready to go.”


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