Depleted Grizzlies Still Present Big Challenge

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MEMPHIS – Friday’s shootaround started with a strange sight: Celtics personnel wiping down basketballs. With a reported seven Grizzlies players suffering from a stomach virus, Boston isn't taking any chances.

Despite the Grizzlies’ bench being decimated by the bug, their top stars are believed to be in the clear for now. So while Quincy Pondexter, Kosta Koufos, Jarnell Stokes, Jon Leuer, Tony Allen, Beno Udrih and Courtney Lee are all considered questionable, the Celtics still face a tall order. It will be a very tall order, in fact, when it comes to stopping Grizzlies big men Marc Gasol (18.0 points per game, 7.8 rebounds per game) and Zach Randolph (16.6 PPG, 11.8 RPG).

“Their main guys are still healthy. I feel bad for them, that’s not an easy thing to go though,” Coach Brad Stevens said.

Stevens said that despite the Grizzlies' depleted roster, he’s not changing his approach to game-planning for them. Gasol presents perhaps the biggest challenge for the Celtics in terms of matchups. Jared Sullinger, who will likely spend time battling with Gasol down low, says he’s ready for the assignment.

“It’s gonna be a bear fight,” Sullinger said before the morning shootaround. “You’ve got to meet him at the free throw line and hopefully he doesn’t bury you.

“He can shoot the ball, he can post up, he can pass. He does a little bit of everything,” said Sullinger.

Stevens had a similar assessment.

“He’s tough to stop at all. He’s a great post player. He can score by being fouled. He can score with a running hook. He can spin off you and score. He can pass as good as anyone,” Stevens said.

Stevens also noted that Gasol has great synergy with point guard Mike Conley, a player Rajon Rondo called underrated after Thursday’s practice.

“He’s great at what he does. He knocks down shots, makes plays for his teammates. I don’t think he gets enough credit. He’s one of the best point guards in our game,” Rondo said. “He doesn’t play in a big market, so he doesn’t get a lot of the fame or the credit he deserves.”

The Grizzlies may not always find themselves in the spotlight given their own media market size, but their 10-2 record is the best in the league and is certainly drawing attention. An upset win over the Grizzlies could certainly open some eyes for the Celtics.