The Boston Celtics improved to 11-2 on Sunday night with their 102-100 win over the Memphis Grizzlies. It was a physical affair that saw both rosters giving everything they’ve got. Nevertheless, the Celtics found a way to win, despite the Grizzlies doing to their best to drag the game into the trenches.
These are the type of games the Celtics would have lost in recent years. There was no smooth flow. Fouls were being dished out like candy at a kindergarten party, and nobody would have left without some scratch marks and bruises. Sometimes, it’s not about playing pretty; it’s about digging deep and grinding out a win, which is exactly what the Celtics did.
The Celtics went to a high-tempo offense for the second straight game and stuck to a read-and-react system with very few designed plays. Instead, their execution was more principal-based: empty corners, double drags, etc. At times, that style of offense works well, but we’ve seen over the last 13 games that Boston is at their best when it finds a balance between principal-based offense and some standard-designed actions.
#1 Take a bow, Kristaps Porzingis
From the opening tip, it was clear Joe Mazzulla was looking to feature Kristaps Porzingis on the offensive end. Boston looked for multiple ways to involve the big man and create mismatches and scoring opportunities whenever possible.
Porzingis played every second of the first quarter, racking up 12 points, 5 rebounds, and 3 blocks. All five of his baskets came inside the paint, forcing the Grizzlies into making mistakes, giving away fouls, and collapsing around the bucket.
This was my favorite action involving Porzingis in the first quarter. The Celtics stuck with their “slice” playbook for a baseline out-of-bounds play, using Payton Pritchard as an inverted screener was designed to force a mismatch. However, Jaren Jackson Jr. does a good job of navigating the action and forces Porzingis into a tough basket. Either way, it led to two points.
#2 A new level of rim protection
Porzingis ended the game with 6 blocks. SIX. The Celtics have a new level of rim protection this season, consistently paying dividends. What’s exciting is that Porzingis blocks don’t just come as a drop defender. He gets to shots on the perimeter, rotates over as a helper, and can shut down second-chance plays if he comes up short on rebound attempts.
Here’s Porzingis getting a block when rotating over as a help defender.
And here he is, blocking a shot in the corner to ice the game.
Porzingis currently sits joint-eighth in the NBA for total blocks, tied with Myles Turner of the Indiana Pacers. Judging by his performances so far, he will likely remain a top-10 shot blocker throughout the season, which is a defensive dimension the Celtics have lacked throughout the Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown era.
Read More: It’s not called Grind City for nothing: 10 takeaways from Celtics/Grizzlies 2023-11-20 13:30:01