Marcus Smart Loomed Over Celtics and…

MEMPHIS — Marcus Smart argued with referee James Williams during a stoppage. He led a timeout during another. Between the first and second quarters — he turned to David Roddy and showed him how to position himself. Smart hardly sat down despite wearing a walking boot on his freshly injured left foot, and while absent between the lines, Smart’s presence on the sideline became hard to ignore in a game originally touted as his revenge game against Boston. As did his influence over how Memphis played his former team.

 

“I think in the pre-game talk, he talked for 10 minutes straight,” Grizzlies forward Santi Aldama told CLNS Media. “He knows these guys. Obviously, he’s a guy that studies a lot of film, but he played there for 9-10 years and he knows them better than anybody, probably better than themselves. He gave us a lot of insight, especially guarding Jayson, who’s a great player, backs down smaller defenders into the post and then has all these tricks. So really trying to see how to guard them without fouling. Obviously, having Marcus himself is a privilege, but having him playing against Boston, I think that gave us a better chance at winning this game.”

Aldama made a spot start for the first time this season as Memphis played three bigs and disrupted Boston with aggressive switching in a game that dragged into the mud in Smart’s style. Jayson Tatum committed eight turnovers, the officials called 40 fouls and the Celtics only generated 31 three-point attempts. Tatum didn’t take one until late in the fourth quarter, a decisive pull-up he nearly squandered by hitting a cutting Jrue Holiday with nine seconds remaining for a dunk ahead by two points. Holiday missed his dunk attempt and Smart impression, allowing Aldama to shoot a three for the win in the other direction that he missed before Kristaps Porziņģis blocked Ziaire Williams’ put-back attempt to secure a 102-100 win.

Alongside Smart, who’ll miss 3-5 weeks with his ankle ailment, the Grizzlies entered without Steven Adams (knee), Brandon Clarke (achilles), Ja Morant (suspension), Jake LaRavia (eye), Derrick Rose (knee), Xavier Tillman (knee) and Luke Kennard (knee), a staggering assortment of talent that formerly composed one of the best teams in the west. It marked the first time this season the Celtics truly played down to opposing competition, an assessment Porziņģis admitted to that Joe Mazzulla couched as a lack of discipline. He did, however, rip Boston’s execution on the final play.

“I mean listen, we got lucky to win that game,” he said. “You can learn from losses, you can learn from wins. Sometimes you’re ok with the loss, because you did some right things. Sometimes you’re pissed, because you didn’t deserve to win and I didn’t think we deserved to win the game because of a lot of the stuff that we did. At the end of the game there, you either have to make the layup, or you have to get fouled … credit to the Grizzlies for the way they played. I thought they just outplayed us at times … you have to go through stuff, I can’t have the expectation of perfection … I’m not happy about it. I was happy with the way the game went in Toronto. Tonight, I’m not happy about it, but I understand it’s going to happen.”

Porziņģis paced the offense early with a dunk and tough face-up mid range shot that beat the shot clock. He blocked Jaren Jackson Jr. and Desmond Bane, finishing with five rejections, and the short-handed Grizzlies looked overwhelmed, down 8-2. That didn’t last, with Aldama answering with a three before Bane shook loose for a pull-up two and up-faked against Derrick White’s shot contest, sending him out of play before Bane hit one of two back-to-back threes for the lead.

Sam Hauser hit the only Celtics threes of the first half, hitting his first four tries while Boston’s other players started 0-for-10 from deep into the third quarter. His first look came off a Porziņģis scramble for the rebound underneath like the one that followed to end the quarter where Tatum missed two put-backs. Porziņģis chased down Bane after the misses and blocked him before Aldama’s cutting baseline dunk gave Memphis a lead into the second. Boston responded by finding Hauser twice rotation for threes, but effortless runs back in transition and shot contests led to a play where Aldama missed, grabbed his own miss against Porziņģis, then dished to Bane for a wide open two that sent Mazzulla to half court calling timeout.

“He’s a real competitor,” Porziņģis said. “He has a real edge to him. He wants to win everything. He wants to be the best. He wants to push us … he definitely showed some emotion and I think we needed it at that moment.”

 

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