Grizzlies stand in way of Celtics' momentum
One team that believes it just sent a loud and clear message to the rest of the league goes head-to-head with a team desperately seeking such a statement win when the Boston Celtics host the Memphis Grizzlies on Friday night.
The Celtics (26-18) are coming off one of their biggest wins of the season, a 117-108 home triumph over the Atlantic Division-leading Toronto Raptors on Wednesday night.
The win came on the heels of a three-game losing streak that had threatened to drop the Celtics's status in the Eastern Conference playoff race.
Despite still trailing the Raptors by six games in the Atlantic, Celtics star Kyrie Irving felt compelled to make a proclamation to reporters shortly after the final buzzer.
"It felt good to get this win against a great team like the Raptors and kind of make a statement for ourselves that we're obviously capable of playing against the best and beating the best," he said.
Memphis also has been going head-to-head with some of the NBA's best in the past week, but without the same success.
The Grizzlies, the last-place team in the Southwest Division, ended a two-game trip with a 112-94 blowout loss at Houston on Monday, then returned home and couldn't keep up with the Milwaukee Bucks in a 111-101 defeat two days later.
Memphis (19-25) has lost three straight, nine of 10 and 14 of 17. The Grizzlies have attempted to take steps toward igniting a turnaround with the recent acquisition of Justin Holiday from the Chicago Bulls.
In his sixth game with the Grizzlies, Holiday was thrust into the starting lineup against the Bucks and didn't do much to impact the club's skid. He missed 3 of 4 shots on a five-point night that was highlighted by four steals.
Grizzlies coach J.B. Bickerstaff defended the promotion after the game, telling reporters, "We need him to play well. We need him to be comfortable so that he can contribute at the level that we think he can. We'll never do anything to the detriment of the team, but when you make a trade for a guy, there's a commitment to give him some sort of opportunity."
Holiday has yet to recapture the offensive magic he displayed with the Bulls this season, when he scored in double figures 22 times and was averaging 11.6 points per game, the second-most of his career, at the time of the trade.
He has yet to score more than six points in any game for the Grizzlies while shooting just 17.2 percent overall and 1 of 13 on 3-pointers.
Holiday didn't have much luck with the defensive-minded Celtics in two games for the Bulls earlier this season, shooting a combined 4-for-20 while totaling just 11 points.
Irving had 26 points when the Celtics won 112-103 at Memphis last month. The Celtics shot 50 percent in the game, one of just 12 times this season that's happened.
One of those occasions was Wednesday's win over Toronto, a game in which Irving showed the way with 27 points and 18 assists.
--Field Level Media
Updated January 17, 2019