Celtics Ward Off Gasol’s Storm, Defeat Grizzlies

MEMPHIS, Tenn. – Marc Gasol nearly led the Memphis Grizzlies to a massive upset over the Boston Celtics Saturday night, as he helped them overcome a 21-point deficit by dropping 21 points of his own during the third quarter alone.

The only problem was that he was facing the best defense in the league. And that defense was able to adjust and completely shut him down during the fourth quarter, paving the way for a 102-93 Celtics win at FedExForum.

The C’s had gotten out to a 29-8 lead during the first quarter, but Memphis gradually chipped away during the second and third frames.

Gasol was largely responsible for the Grizzlies’ 33-23 third-quarter advantage, as he shot 8-of-10 from the field for 21 of his game-high 30 points during that 12-minute time frame. All the while, he was excelling in the pick-and-roll, as he was able to connect on 4-of-5 3-point attempts during the third quarter.

“He was taking advantage of our system that we have in place by slipping out and getting some open jump shots that enabled him to get into a great rhythm,” Celtics point guard Kyrie Irving pointed out after the game. “We had to make adjustments.”

Before the Celtics could make any adjustments, the Grizzlies made an adjustment of their own; they took Gasol out of the game at the start of the fourth quarter to let him rest after his offensive eruption.

“We had let him run the entire third quarter,” explained Memphis coach JB Bickerstaff. “When you run 12 minutes at that pace and with the way he was playing, it just felt like we needed to give him a couple minutes to catch his breath.”

There was one problem with that decision: Memphis’ offense could not function without Gasol on the court.

The Celtics opened up the fourth quarter on a 16-0 run, with 11 of those points being scored while Gasol was on the bench. The 7-footer only missed three minutes of action, however, so he had plenty of time to lead the Grizzlies on another comeback when he returned to the game.

“We had to make adjustments,” said Al Horford, who spent much of the game guarding Gasol. “We were trying to communicate out there (during the third quarter), but he was still getting the open looks. So we made some adjustments on defense and that took care of that.”

Those adjustments included throwing a bunch of different coverages at Gasol. The Celtics tightened up their pick-and-roll defense, and completely took Memphis’ star center out of the game.

Gasol was barely able to find any decent looks at the basket following his third-quarter outburst. He got off only two shot attempts during the final frame and missed them both.

Stopping Gasol allowed the Celtics to slow down Memphis’ entire offensive operation, as they outscored the Grizzlies 33-20 during the fourth quarter. C’s coach Brad Stevens felt that was as good of a defensive response as he could’ve hoped for.

“You’re going to take a team’s shot like [we did during the third quarter with Gasol] but you have to weather that storm and stay the course,” said Stevens, whose Celtics lead the league with a 100.7 defensive rating. “The guys did a nice job of that tonight.”