The Memphis Grizzlies are currently the best team in the NBA from a record standpoint, but they aren’t a great offensive team. Instead, Memphis usually win games with its stellar defense, while scoring at about a league-average rate on the offensive end of the floor.
Friday night, like most opponents facing the Celtics this season, the Grizzlies morphed into a great offensive team. The hosts put on a clinic for the better part of 48 minutes, cruising to a 117-100 win.
Facing arguably the best front line in the NBA with Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph, the Celtics were abused in the paint on the defensive end all night long. Gasol went for a season-high 32 points and eight rebounds, while Randolph added a double-double with 16 points and 16 rebounds. Coach Brad Stevens constantly rotated between his undersized bigs on the duo, but none of those players fared well in their attempts to slow down the pair.
The Celtics also made reserve forward Jon Leuer look like an All-Star, as the big man posted a line of 19 points, seven rebounds and four assists in just 22 minutes. Kelly Olynyk had a team-high 18 points, leading six Celtics scorers that finished in double figures.
The Celtics were expected to lose this game, but the alarming part about the defeat from a big picture standpoint was how easily the Grizzlies’ offense operated, even when they weren’t going to their size advantage in the post. Memphis scored a staggering 66 points in the paint, 22 points above their season average, on an endless parade of layups from all corners of the floor. Boston’s lack of a rim protector was more glaring than ever, and that’s an issue that isn’t going anyway anytime soon.
Overall, the Celtics have allowed over 100 points in nine of their 11 games, including over 109 in four of their last five contests. In a related story, the Celtics have dropped four of their last five games.
With high-powered offenses like the Portland Trail Blazers, Chicago Bulls, and San Antonio Spurs lined up as opponents for the next week, the Celtics are at risk of falling into a deep November swoon, unless they can show some major improvement on the defensive end of the floor. At this point, the return of Marcus Smart to action next week is the team’s best hope to stop the bleeding.