The Celtics were tasked with a massive test Saturday night, facing a double-digit deficit well into the second half, but Boston rallied to move to 1-1 on their most recent road trip.
Trailing by as many as 19, the Celtics came up with a gut-check 112-103 win over the Memphis Grizzlies at FedEx Forum.
A impressive second half from Kyrie Irving and two late 3-pointers from Al Horford were the difference in the comeback.
Irving led the Celtics with 26 points and 13 assists, shooting 8-for-16 from the floor. Marcus Morris (22), Horford (18) and Gordon Hayward (14 off the bench) also scored in double digits for the the Celtics. Mike Conley led the Grizzlies with 26 points while Dillon Brooks added 19 points off the bench.
With the win, the Celtics climbed to 21-14, while the Grizzlies fall to 18-17.
Here’s how it all went down:
PG: Kyrie Irving
SG: Marcus Smart
SF: Jayson Tatum
PF: Marcus Morris Sr.
C: Al Horford
THREE-BALL GIVES C’S EARLY LEAD
The teams traded blows for much of the opening stanza, but it was the Celtics that took a 29-26 lead after one.
The Celtics pushed out to an early advantage behind 3-pointers from Morris and Jayson Tatum to open the game.
Trailing 25-18, Memphis charged back with an 8-0 run late in the quarter to take a 26-25 lead before Terry Rozier hit a 12-footer to give Boston back the lead. Jaylen Brown hit a turnaround 20-footer just before the buzzer to close the quarter.
Morris led all Celtics with eight points in the quarter.
GRIZZLIES TAKE CONTROL
Memphis did more than just wake up a bit in the second, the home team absolutely brought it, outscoring the Celtics 38-18 in the quarter to take a 64-45 lead into halftime.
Memphis went on an 18-5 run in the final 6:09 of the half, including a 12-0 run. Conley’s floater with 2.5 seconds left gave the Grizzlies their biggest lead of the half going into the locker room.
The Grizzlies sunk 20-of-24 two-point shots in the first 24 minutes, while sinking 36 points in the paint to the Celtics’ 14.
Brooks led all scorers with 13 points after two. Morris and Tatum, who led the Celtics with eight and seven points, respectively, in the first quarter, were held scoreless in the second.
CELTICS MAKE LATE PUSH
The Celtics were unable to chip away at the deficit for much of the third, but their scoring touch came to life late, outscoring the Grizzlies 32-23 to lower Memphis’ lead to 87-79 heading into the final frame.
Irving, who was just 1-for-4 from the floor in the first half, led the emergence in the final six minutes of the quarter, shooting 4-for-6 as the the C’s outscored Memphis 22-12 in the final 7:13.
The star guard narrowed the deficit to 12 with a 27-foot bomb off a baseline feed from Tatum following a Marcus Smart steal.
Following a 3-pointer from Brooks with 4:17 left in the quarter, the Celtics went on an 11-2 run highlighted by a three from Smart and a transition dunk from Hayward.
Irving led all Celtics after three quarters with 16 points.
The Celtics outscored the Grizzlies 33-16 in the fourth quarter, carving up the NBA’s fifth-best defense to cap off a statement comeback.
Morris hit two free throws with 7:28 remaining to cut the deficit to 90-84. Morris followed that up with a 3-pointer at 6:47 to make it 90-87. Irving then added four points on back-to-back drives to the basket, capping a 9-0 run and giving the Celtics their first lead since 27-seconds into the second quarter.
The teams traded baskets for the next two minutes.
Horford gave the Celtics a 96-94 lead with 3:19 left off a drive, sinking the shot and finishing off the and-one. Conley put the Grizzlies back on top 97-96 with a deep three with 3:05 remaining.
The Celtics used a 13-4 run down the stretch to help solidify the lead. Horford put the Celtics up 103-99 with a 3-pointer with 1:32 left. Then, Smart intercepted an inbound pass with 1:18 remaining, which was followed by a Morris turnaround jumper to make 105-99 with 59.1-seconds left.
Horford drilled another trey with 35.1-seconds left to ice it.
Boston finished 40-for-80 from the floor and was 16-for-36 from beyond the arc.
PLAY OF THE GAME
Tatum goes full beast mode
The Celtics will take the floor again Monday when they visit the San Antonio Spurs for a New Year’s Eve tilt. Tip-off from AT&T Center is set for 7 p.m. ET.
Thumbnail photo via Justin Ford/USA TODAY Sports Images