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MEMPHIS On Sunday night, the Celtics welcomed Brad Stevens back to the bench and Avery Bradley to the line-up after 3 games missed with a hip injury. Memphis was without Mike Conley and Courtney Lee. 
Boston started the night with a dominant offensive effort. A 15-point first-half lead over Memphis was due largely in thanks to a combination of tough shots made in the paint and well-executed ball movement.
A momentum shift in the 2nd half and less than ideal offensive production from the Celtics bench allowed the Grizzlies to lunge back into the game and secure a lead with under 3 minutes left to play. Double doubles from both Marc Gasol and Zack Randolph highlighted the Memphis stat sheet. The Grizzlies' 27-15 run to end the game proved too much for the Celtics and a 21-point deficit was inevitably erased.

Starting line-ups:  
CELTICS | Thomas, Bradley, Crowder, Johnson and Olynyk
GRIZZLIES |  Chalmers, Allen, Barnes, Green and Gasol

1st Half

A Tony Allen three would be the first points of the match-up but the Celtics responded immediately with a three of their own from Thomas. Avery Bradley would make his first attempt, a 15 ft jumper in his return to the court. A Crowder pull-up three followed by a steal meant for Jeff Green and a made fast break bucket on the other end gave him a quick 5 points and put the C’s up 7. Another second 3-pointer from Isaiah Thomas put the Celtics ahead 17-4 at the halfway mark of the 1st quarter and Allen headed to the Grizzlies bench having scored all their points. Thomas made his third three and the Celtics were shooting 67% overall and 57% from three. After the 5 minute mark, Sullinger and Smart were the first substitutions.  Celtics closed out the 1st up by 18 on an 8-2 run and perfect from the line. They held the Grizzlies to just 16 points.
David Lee started the quarter along with Sullinger, Smart, Bradley and Turner. A Marcus Smart steal would translate to an easy two for Lee and his first points after 3 DNPs. Celtics’ shooting percentage dropped to 48% in the 2nd as evidenced by a 1 for 6 start. With aggressive attack from Zack Randolph and an obvious stepped-up effort overall, the Grizzlies cut the lead to 11 points on a 6-0 run.  Only 3 turnovers for the Celtics but a 2nd foul was picked up by Bradley with 5+ minutes to play in the 2nd. Crowder hit a three to put the C’s up by 16 with a little over a minute left until halftime. Coming out of a timeout, a great play off the inbound pass would lead to a Kelly Olynyk dunk as part their 11-5 run. Celtics made their way to the locker room ahead by 15. Randolph led all Grizzlies going 5/9 in the half; 12 points and 7 rebounds. Thomas led all scorers at the half with 15 points, 3 rebounds and 5 assists.

At the half: Celtics 53, Grizzlies 38

2nd Half 

The same starting five would kick-off the 2nd half for Boston but Memphis inserted Randolph into their first 5. Two fast break points by Bradley were the Celtics first points of the half. The C’s would be up by 18 after a baseline three from Amir Johnson. Approaching the midway point of the half, Thomas had racked up 20 points. A pair of Mario Chalmers free throws would put the Grizzlies within 12. The pace of the game definitely altered in favor of Memphis and a flurry of foul calls -- including two on the Celtics in 20 seconds -- would further shrink the lead to 10 points as part of a 9-0 run by the Grizzlies. Randolph's put-back would bring them within single digits. A transition basket from Chalmers paired with a blocking foul called on Jared Sullinger left the Celtics lead at 5. Thomas’ 4th three pointer of the night followed by a Sullinger mid-range jumper would push the Celtics back up by 9. Jeff Green answered with his first points of the night against his old teammates.  In a quarter that felt bogged down by Memphis trips to the foul line, Boston wrapped the quarter with a defensive stop and holding onto a 8-point lead. 
Celtics started the 4th quarter with Lee, Bradley, Turner, Smart and Sullinger. Boston opened the final twelve minutes with more than twice as many assists as Memphis. The first points of the quarter came from a Sullinger lay-up. A Vince Carter 38 yr-young dunk followed by an Allen steal and coordinating bucket brought the Grizzlies back within 5 points. Several missed attempts on offense by the Celtics and some odd officiating fired up Brad Stevens along with Smart and Bradley who would convert a steal into a baseline basket. Marcus Smart's rebound count was now at 5, tied with David Lee's tally and following both Johnson (8) and Olynyk (6). With a little more than six minutes to go, Allen would make a breakaway dunk and cut the lead back to 5 points again. Isaiah Thomas checked back in only for the Celtics to commit a tentative-fueled turnover and 2 more Memphis points. Marc Gasol scoring on their next possession smothered the lead to 1 point. 
After a Crowder offensive foul call, Memphis took their first lead of the game on a Gasol basket and foul shot. The game sat all even at 87 with just over 3 minutes to play. Back to back steals by Crowder and Sullinger set the tone coming out of a timeout. Avery Bradley got to the line with the game tied at 91 and made 1 of 2 free throws bringing the total missed foul shots by the C's to six. Celtics called a timeout after 2 points from Barnes and came back small with Sullinger, Smart, Thomas, Crowder and Bradley. A rejected Smart lay-up by Matt Barnes sent the ball the other way, resulted in a foul by Smart and landed Chalmers on the line. 3-point lead for the Grizzlies. Two made free throws from Allen followed up by 2-points by Thomas kept the Celtics within 3 points with under 30 seconds to play. Barnes and Thomas would both take to the free throw line and make their shots. Chalmers (11/13) and Thomas each made their free throws to keep things interesting. A late made three by Thomas didn't count and the Celtics couldn't grab the win in Memphis.
Final score: Celtics 98, Grizzlies 101

Leading scorers:
Boston:  Isaiah Thomas 35 pts 
Memphis: Zack Randolph 25 pts

Marcus Smart had a career high night with 5 steals.

Up next: Celtics continue their trip with a visit to the big Apple to face Carmelo Anthony and the Knicks. 

Follow Steph on Twitter @StephMBenz

Photo Credit: Brandon Dill, AP

margaret in the middle 1/10/2016 08:51:00 PM Edit
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