After an up-and-down stretch that included three straight losses and four in six games, the Boston Celtics are back on a winning streak and are the first NBA team to reach 40 victories this season.
Boston seeks its fourth straight triumph in a Sunday afternoon game against the visiting Memphis Grizzlies, who are 23-5 at home and just 11-16 on the road.
“I love the fact that our guys play hard regardless and just continue to just execute, execute, execute on both ends of the floor,” Celtics interim head coach Joe Mazzulla said. “Because when we do, we always get a great shot for either ourselves or the guy next to us.”
Despite playing without three starters in Jaylen Brown (facial swelling), Marcus Smart (ankle) and Al Horford (knee), the Celtics led wire-to-wire and earned a 127-116 win Friday over the Charlotte Hornets.
Derrick White scored a career-high 33 points on the strength of eight of the team’s 25 3-pointers and Jayson Tatum led Boston with 41.
The Celtics integrated a fresh face into the lineup Friday as center Mike Muscala debuted with his new team just a day after being acquired in a trade from Oklahoma City. He scored 12 points in just 16 minutes, including making his first 3-point attempt.
“Man, that’s big time,” Tatum said of his new teammate’s ability to make an immediate impact on the scoresheet. “To come to a new team never (having) practiced with us and knock down your first shot … just as a basketball player, I know how good that felt.”
Muscala fit right into the offense in a game in which the Celtics tied for the third-most 3-point makes in franchise history. Muscala made four of his eight attempts from behind the arc.
The Grizzlies have won back-to-back games following a three-game skid and 1-8 stretch, bouncing back for a 128-107 win Friday against the Minnesota Timberwolves.
“This was just a product of getting a couple of practices under our belt. A couple of shootarounds,” Memphis coach Taylor Jenkins said. “Guys watching film and craving it.”
Memphis was hot from beyond the arc, shooting 40 percent from 3-point range (10 of 25) for only the second time in its past 12 games. That was without newcomer Luke Kennard, the sharpshooter who arrived Friday after being acquired from the Los Angeles Clippers a day earlier.
Ja Morant had 32 points, nine assists and nine rebounds in a similar complete-game performance to his last head-to-head meeting with the Celtics.
“You see how I was shooting today?” Morant said after the game. “I had to step it up a bit and shoot like (Kennard) a little bit. I told him on the 3 I hit before that half that I felt like him.”
The teams have not met since Nov. 7, a 109-106 Boston road win in which Tatum went for 39 points, Malcolm Brogdon had 10 rebounds and Smart dished 12 assists.
Morant had 30 points, eight boards and nine assists in that game.
The Celtics have won eight straight home games in the series.
–Field Level Media