The Boston Celtics defeated the Memphis Grizzlies 120-107 in TD Garden Thursday night, winning the 13th game in their last 15 outings.
“It was a lot of fun,” said Tatum. “The place was electric tonight.”
Jayson Tatum led the Celtics with 37 points, six rebounds, and five assists celebrating his 24th birthday with a home victory. Al Horford (21 points, 15 rebounds, five assists) and Marcus Smart (18 points, 12 assists) also stepped up as six Bostonians eclipsed double-digit scoring. Jaylen Brown did not play, nursing a right ankle sprain.
Ja Morant scored 38 points in Memphis’ loss, including 30 in the second half, bringing his scoring average over the last three games to just over 45 points.
Boston’s Terrorizing Rise
The Celtics have completely turned their season around, putting a losing start well behind them and disproving the narrative that they cannot beat the premier teams in the National Basketball Association.
Boston now sits at 38-27 on the season, good for fifth in the Eastern Conference, one game behind the fourth-place Milwaukee Bucks, and 4.5 behind the conference-leading Miami Heat. If the season ended today, Boston would have a first-round matchup with the reigning champion Milwaukee Bucks and two-time Most Valuable Player, Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Memphis had a chance to draw level with the Golden State Warriors for second place in the Western Conference, but could not convert this opportunity, moving to 43-21 on the year.
The Celtics Playoff Hopes
The Boston faithful have quietly formed one of the league’s best defenses under first-year Head Coach Ime Udoka, ranking second in team defensive rating and trailing the leading Warriors by just .1. This is a credit to Udoka, who has managed to get the best out of a team that is not the most athletic in the world and has a star player in Tatum who has been accused of being lazy on the defensive end at times.
Looking around the Eastern Conference, there is no set blueprint that every team is attempting to build; the Heat are the very definition of a “team” and win as a collective; the Philadelphia 76ers revolve around the star pairing of Joel Embiid and James Harden; the Chicago Bulls have four leaders in DeMar Derozan, Zach LaVine, Nikola Vucevic, and Lonzo Ball; and the Bucks have a dominant leader in the Greek Freak who is flanked by shooters and defenders such as Jrue Holiday and Khris Middleton.
Boston’s blend of youthful energy and experienced wisdom, talented playmakers and dedicated role-fillers, and takeover scorers and elite defenders will allow them to match up with nearly anyone that they play.
What’s to Come
The Celtics’ key to success stems from getting Jaylen Brown healthy first and foremost, then integrating him back to a rotation that has been playing incredibly well lately.
A deadline-day move for Derrick White is already paying dividends for Boston, who has come out of nowhere and is flirting with being a championship contender. They will have to knock off at least two legitimate threats if they want to make the NBA Finals, but they are playing as well as anybody at the moment.
The Celtics will be back in action Sunday, March 6 when the Brooklyn Nets come to town.