Celtics look to get well against the Grizzlies
MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- The Boston Celtics just might be getting exactly what the doctor ordered Saturday night when they visit the staggering Memphis Grizzlies.
The Celtics lost for the third time in five games Friday night, falling 107-95 at home to the Utah Jazz.
The losses have stunningly occurred following a 22-4 start that had given the Celtics the best record in the NBA.
"There's going to be times like this," Celtics standout Kyrie Irving assured after Friday's loss. "We've probably hit a little fatigue. We've probably hit a patch where we need to kind of all collectively and individually just kind of slow down for a quick second, gather ourselves and move forward."
Irving had 33 points in the loss, which came in the first meeting between the Celtics and Jazz since Gordon Hayward left Utah for Boston as a free agent in the off-season.
Hayward broke his ankle in the Celtics' opener against Cleveland and isn't expected to play again this season.
The Celtics get an opportunity to turn things back in a positive direction Saturday night against a Grizzlies club that has lost 16 of its last 18 games.
Even in a rare win Friday night, they were extended to the wire by fellow lightweight Atlanta, holding on for a 96-94 victory that ended a five-game losing streak.
Like the Celtics, the short-handed Grizzlies, still without star point guard Mike Conley, will be playing the second night of a back-to-back Saturday.
For a change, they'll be seeking a create a winning streak thanks to Friday's nail-biter.
"Winning always feels better than losing," Grizzlies interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff boasted. "I think some plays went our way."
Those plays included three potential game-tying or game-winning shots missed by the Hawks in the final 3.5 seconds.
Saturday's game tips off a two-game trip for the Celtics, who next travel to Indiana for a contest Monday night. Boston has alternated wins and losses in its last six games.
The Celtics also won't be at full strength on Saturday, with backup big man Daniel Theis having suffered a facial fracture in the loss to the Jazz.
Boston already was playing without Hayward and fellow starter Marcus Morris (strained left knee).
The Celtics swept the two-game season series over the Grizzlies last year, with a Conley absence helping produce different types of contests.
He had 19 points in a 112-109 overtime loss at home in December, a game in which Isaiah Thomas exploded for 44 points for the Celtics.
A week later, with Conley on the sidelines, the Grizzlies couldn't keep pace in Boston, losing 113-103. Thomas contributed 21 points to the win.
Conley remains sidelined indefinitely with an Achilles issue. Tyreke Evans has become the club's chief offensive option.
Evans had a game-high 22 points, including the eventual difference-making hoop with 1:03 remaining, in Friday's win over the Hawks.
It was Evans' 10th game of 18 or more points in Conley's 16-game absence, during which the Grizzlies have gone 2-14.
Updated December 16, 2017