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Preview: Celtics-Grizzlies

03.10.10 at 10:32 am ET
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One game removed from scoring 25 points and knocking down a dramatic game-winner, Ray Allen was a total afterthought in the Celtics offensive attack against the Bucks Tuesday night. Allen had only three shots, and he missed them all.

More than almost every other player on the roster, Allen relies on his teammates to set him up. According to the numbers on Hoop Data, more than 72 percent of Allen’s made shots come off assists. (Kevin Garnett actually has a higher percentage). This is the second time in the past week that Allen has had so few looks. Against the Bobcats he had only two shots, but because that was a blowout it went relatively unnoticed.

The key to the Celtics offense is balance and they can’t afford to go away from Allen like that in the future.

GRIZZLIES (33-31, 6-4 last 10)

Points Per Game: 102.0

Points Allowed: 102.8

Differential: -.8 (17th)

Offensive Efficiency: 108.5 (12th)

Defensive Efficiency: 109.3 (23rd)

Pace: 93.0 (13th)

Likely Starters: Mike Conley, O.J. Mayo, Rudy Gay, Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol

Injuries: Darrell Arthur (Torn pec muscle), Randolph (Back, questionable)

CELTICS (40-22, 6-4 last 10)

Points Per Game: 98.2

Points Allowed: 93.7

Differential: +4.5 (6th)

Offensive Efficiency: 106.8 (14th)

Defensive Efficiency: 101.8 (1st)

Pace: 91.5 (23rd)

Likely Starters: Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Kendrick Perkins

Injuries: None.

Key Matchup: Kevin Garnett vs. Zach Randolph

Memphis does one thing really well and that’s hit the offensive glass. No one does it better than Randolph, who leads the league in offensive boards with 267. Randolph has always been a good offensive rebounder, but this year he has taken it to a whole new level and there was an All-Star berth in it for him. The Celtics have struggled with rebounding all season, which Doc Rivers says is a symptom of defensive breakdowns. That’s definitely part of it, but in the case of Randolph, offensive rebounding is a huge part of his game. Garnett will have to account for him at all times that he’s on the floor.

The Grizzlies in a Paragraph: Memphis was one of the stranger stories of the NBA season for a while. A bad team that suddenly became good mainly because of the efforts of Randolph and noticeable improvement from Marc Gasol. Reality has set in, however, as the Grizzlies are not likely to make the playoffs in the treacherous Western Conference, the No. 2 overall pick Hasheem Thabeet was sent to the D-League for a tune-up and their best perimeter player–Rudy Gay–is likely to leave in free agency. Once again, the Grizzlies will be at a crossroads this summer.

The Celtics in a Paragraph: As it stands, the Celtics are in third place in the Eastern Conference with 20 games left in the regular season. There is little chance that they will be able to catch Cleveland and so for the second straight season they are in a race with the Magic for the No. 2 spot in the Eastern Conference. Although they are two games behind Orlando in the loss column, they are five games back in terms of wins. Regardless of whether they have homecourt in the second round or not, the good news is they are unlikely to see the Hawks, unless Atlanta can somehow figure out a way to beat Cleveland in the semifinals.

What to Watch For: This is the 12th back-to-back for the Celtics and they are 6-5 in the second game so far this season. They won four of the first five in these scenarios, lost four straight and have now won the last two. This is where they need contributions from the second unit, and against the Bucks Tuesday night the bench was terrific, albeit in limited minutes. The Grizzlies bench is one of the weakest in the league and this should be a case where the Celtics have a significant advantage.

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