Celtics take on struggling Memphis team tonight in Boston

Photo courtesy of: www.nydailynews.com

The Celtics will look to push their winning streak to three games when they host the Memphis Grizzlies tonight. The Grizzlies enter the contest on a two game losing streak having dropped two straight at home to the Spurs and Rockets.

These two losses are emblematic of the Grizzlies struggles and how they are no longer considered an elite team in the Western Conference. Memphis is just 7-7 after having reached the Western Conference Finals last season.

Ric Bucher elaborated on The Grizzlies struggles in a piece for Bleacher Report yesterday:
With a 30-something Silicon Valley owner, a former agent as CEO, a stat geek as VP of basketball operations and a first-time head coach, the Memphis Grizzlies are very much the new model for NBA franchises. Not surprisingly, they hoped to play more of a trendy style as well.

Only that’s not happening any time soon. At least not as long as Zach Randolph is their best player.

The Grizzlies started this season attempting to play at a faster pace and run more of a flex offense, according to several league scouts, which resulted in a 3-5 record and poundings at home by such lightweights as the Toronto Raptors and the New Orleans Pelicans.

Basketball analytics opponents are smiling at the Grizzlies struggles as advanced stats were one of the main reasons Memphis fired Lionel Hollins and went with a new style of play:
Why abandon a style that won 56 games last season? One scout attributed it to the fact that analytics suggest more possessions—i.e., playing faster—and more drive-and-kick opportunities produce more efficient offensive numbers. There’s also the matter of having dumped veteran coach Lionel Hollins for the neophyte Joerger, in part because Hollins wasn’t enthralled with having front-office numbers-crunchers telling him what offensive sets he should use.

Despite the two straight losses it should be noted that The Grizzlies are playing better as of late returning to their high low sets which get Zach Randolph much more involved in the offense.
Case in point: the Grizzlies’ 88-81 overtime road win against the Warriors on Nov. 20. Randolph, stationed away from the basket in the first half, settled for jumpers and went into the locker room with four points and two rebounds, while Warriors power forward David Lee had twice that in both categories. When the Grizzlies went back to their Hollins-style offense, Randolph came alive, tallying 17 second-half points and 10 rebounds while holding Lee to 10 points and four rebounds.

It also should be noted that Memphis All-Star center Marc Gasol, who is out indefinitely with an MCL sprain, did not play against San Antonio and Houston.

The Celtics, on the other hand, come into the game riding Jordan Crawford's hot shooting (4-6 from deep) in The C's fourth quarter come from behind win against The Bobcats on Tuesday.

My prediction: The Celtics should be in good shape tonight especially without the presence of Gasol and Jared Sullinger's emerging defensive prowess being able to somewhat shut down Zach Randolph.

Boston 96 Memphis 89.

Please leave your own thoughts and predictions on tonight's game in the comments below.

Follow Clint on Twitter @coolhandc