For the second straight game, the Boston Celtics were winners. And for the second straight game, Kyrie Irving was nearly unstoppable.
Following a career night against the Toronto Raptors, Irving responded with a monster 38-point, 11-assist performance in the Celtics’ 122-116 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies at TD Garden.
The Grizzlies hung tough throughout the back-and-forth affair, even erasing a 16-point deficit in the second quarter. But when it was all said in done, Irving and Co. were just too much for the visitors.
Boston featured four other scorers in double figures, as Marcus Smart (20), Al Horford (18), Jaylen Brown (12) and Terry Rozier (10) helped withstand the strong efforts by Mike Conley (26) and Jaren Jackson Jr. (23).
With the win, the Celtics improved to 27-18, while the Grizzlies fell to 19-26.
Here’s how it all went down:
PG: Kyrie Irving
SG: Marcus Smart
SF: Jayson Tatum
PF: Marcus Morris
C: Al Horford
The Grizzlies withstood the Celtics’ hot start and ripped an 11-0 run to take a 22-16 lead with just over three minutes left in the first quarter. But Boston didn’t let Memphis’ momentum last much longer, as it dominated the rest of the frame to the tune of a 19-2 run and took a 35-24 lead into the second.
Smart had the hot hand for the C’s in the first with a team-high nine points courtesy of three 3-pointers. It also didn’t take very long for Boston’s bench to make an impact, as the second unit pitched in a combined 13 points, led by Brown’s six. Jackson Jr. was the high man for the Grizzlies with nine points to go along with three rebounds.
Just when it seemed like the Celtics were going to put the Grizzlies in a deep hole, the visitors flipped the script and swung the game in their favor. Despite shooting 53 percent in the second, Boston’s seven turnovers in the quarter allowed Memphis to mount a comeback and take a 62-58 lead into the break.
Boston strengthened its grip on the contest when Smart drilled a 3-pointer to boost the lead to 16 two minutes into the frame. But from there it was all Grizzlies, who outscored Boston 36-16 to close the quarter. JaMychal Green and Conley led the way with nine second-quarter points apiece, while Justin Holiday wasn’t far behind with eight.
Aside from turnovers, the Celtics also were plagued by 3-point struggles in the first two quarters. While Smart converted on four of five attempts from beyond the arc, the rest of the team only knocked down three of 16.
KYRIE TAKES OVER
Following the Grizzlies’ flurry to close the second quarter, Irving decided to take matters into his own hands.
After being limited to just 10 first-half points, Irving erupted for 20 (!) on 7-of-10 shooting in the third to help the Celtics take a 96-91 lead into the final frame. To put Irving’s outburst in perspective, the star guard accounted for 53 percent of Boston’s third-quarter points.
The momentum didn’t totally shift in the Celtics’ favor, however, as the Grizzlies maintained an efficient offense, scoring 29 points in the third to keep the game close. Conley led the charger with 11 points in the quarter.
The Celtics weren’t going to let this one slip through their fingers.
With just a five-point lead heading into the fourth, Boston kept its foot on the gas to notch its second straight win. The C’s relied on their stars in crunch time, as Irving provided eight fourth-quarter points, while Horford turned in five. Jackson Jr. helped the Grizzlies keep things interesting with 12 in the final frame, but it wasn’t enough to steal a road win.
PLAY OF THE GAME
The Celtics will play the second leg of their back-to-back Saturday night against the Atlanta Hawks. Tip-off from State Farm Arena is set for 7:30 p.m. ET.
Thumbnail photo via Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports