Memphis Grizzlies vs. Boston Celtics: Preview, Analysis and Predictions
The struggling Boston Celtics (36-32) will look to right the ship on Saturday night as they get set to close out a three-game road trip against the Memphis Grizzlies (46-22) inside the FedExForum.
Following a 14-4 run after the season-ending injury suffered by star point guard Rajon Rondo, the Celtics have dropped three in a row and find themselves just two games ahead of the Milwaukee Bucks for the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference.
Meanwhile, the Grizzlies will return home Saturday after falling to the lowly Hornets in New Orleans on Friday. Boasting the No. 1 scoring defense in the NBA this season, Memphis will look to shut down an undermanned Boston team this weekend in order to keep pace in the super-competitive Western Conference.
Here we'll get you set with everything you need to know for Saturday night's prime-time matchup in Memphis.
Where: FedExForum, Memphis, Tenn.
When: Saturday, March 23 at 8 p.m. ET
Watch: CSN (Boston), TSOH (Memphis)
Live Streaming: NBA League Pass (paid subscription required)
Betting Line: Grizzlies (-8) according to Covers.com.
Key Injuries (according to USA Today)
Boston Celtics: Rajon Rondo (knee), out, Jared Sullinger (back), out, Courtney Lee (ankle), questionable.
Memphis Grizzlies: No significant injuries.
Celtics Player to Watch: Jeff Green
Celtics forward Jeff Green is averaging just 11.5 points per game since exploding for 43 points in Monday's loss to the Miami Heat. Green is only averaging 11.7 points per night in 2012-13, but his breakout performance against the defending champions has Boston fans anticipating an encore.
Since Rondo's departure from the starting lineup, Green has stepped up his game, averaging over 15 points per game over the last two months and shooting a high percentage from the field and from beyond the three-point line.
His rebounding and block numbers have also improved over Boston's recent stretch.
Green scored just 10 points on 4-of-5 shooting from the floor in the Celtics' loss to the Grizzlies in January. Look for him to be much more aggressive this time around as he'll play twice as many minutes as he did then, and likely take twice as many shots.
Grizzlies Player to Watch: Mike Conley
Sixth-year point guard Mike Conley has been on a scoring tear as of late, averaging over 21 points per game over his last three outings for the Grizzlies.
In the two teams' first meeting back in January, Conley led all scorers with 23 points on 8-of-15 shooting from the field. The former Ohio State Buckeyes also chipped in nine assists in Memphis' 10-point win in Boston.
Watch for Conley to take on more of a scoring role for the Grizzlies on Saturday night, considering he's been calling his own number offensively as of late.
Boston will likely throw the defensive-minded Avery Bradley at Conley this weekend in an attempt to slow him down, but Conley looks almost unstoppable at the moment, getting to the free-throw line 17 times and knocking down seven three-pointers over the Grizzlies' last three games.
Key Matchup: Battle for the Boards
Year in and year out the Boston Celtics rank toward the bottom of the league in rebounding, as Doc Rivers' squad is usually content to rush back on and set up on defense following a shot attempt. But on Saturday in Memphis, the C's will have to at least hold their own on the glass.
The Grizzlies rank 11th in the NBA in rebounds per game, averaging nearly 43 per night, and they beat up Boston on the glass back in January, out-rebounding the Celtics 39-27 and pulling down five more offensive boards.
With Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol combining for more than 19 rebounds per game, Boston's bigs will have to step up tremendously in order to limit Memphis' possessions and easy scoring chances.
Of course Boston will have to eliminate second-chance opportunities for the Grizzlies this weekend if it hopes to end its current losing skid. But I don't have much faith in the Celtics accomplishing that task on the road against a fine rebounding team.
Beyond the battle for rebounds, a key number to remember for Celtics fans is 100. Boston is just 3-14 on the road this season when it allows 100 or more points. And two of the Celtics' three wins in those games have come in overtime.
Which team is more dangerous come playoff time?
The Grizzlies crushed the Celtics on the boards and stifled them on defense in the two teams' first meeting in Boston in January. Seeing as Boston is still the second-worst rebounding team in the NBA and Memphis is the best team in terms of scoring defense, the Grizzlies look poised to get back in the win column on Saturday.
Both teams are playing on the second night of back-to-backs and Boston's 12-22 road record is another telling stat in leading up to this weekend's game.
The Celtics should make it close, but in the end I like the Grizzlies to win their 28th home game of the season to keep pressure on the Los Angeles Clippers and Denver Nuggets for the No. 3 spot out West.
Grizzlies 95, Celtics 87
Follow Bleacher Report Featured Columnist Patrick Clarke on Twitter.
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