Ja Morant and the Memphis Grizzlies have been the talk of the NBA of late. The buzz was palpable headed into Thursday night’s national TV matchup with the Boston Celtics at TD Garden. But the Green’s stifling defense held Morant in check early, and the Boston offense blew the game open in the second half on the way to a 120-107 victory.
Jayson Tatum scored 37 points – 19 in the fourth quarter – taking over late as multiple Celtics hobbled back to the locker room. Al Horford had a monster night with 16 points, 15 rebounds, five assists and two blocks, while Robert Williams double-doubled with a trio of assists and the usual bevy of defensive stats. Marcus Smart collected a double-double, as well, with a game-high 12 dimes.
The Boston lead swelled to 15 points in the third quarter as the Celtics’ scoring caught up with their stifling defensive effort that had limited the visitors to just 45 first half points. While Memphis sliced the lead to single digits early in the fourth – with Morant pouring in a number of his 30 second half points – there was no stopping Tatum. The Duke product rained threes, got to the basket for layups and dunks, and put his superstar stamp on a contest many expected to be fodder for Morant’s next Instagram reel.
The Grizzlies shot poorly to start the game, with Morant failing to convert a field goal until six minutes into the second quarter. But sloppy ball handling for Boston contributed to 14 first half points off turnovers for Memphis, and a 9-0 Grizzlies run late in the second (featuring a thunderous lefty slam by Morant off an alley-oop toss) tied the game. Boston briefly recovered to head to the locker room with a two-point lead.
Morant tallied a game-high 38 points for the game. Jaren Jackson Jr. chipped in with 20 for Memphis.
Boston’s Aaron Nesmith – starting for an injured Jaylen Brown – sustained an ankle injury of his own in the opening quarter and did not return. Derrick White also left with an apparent elbow injury in the fourth.
The win lifts the Green to fifth place in the Eastern Conference at 38-27, just two games back of Philly and Chicago for second in the East.
The Celtics play another national TV game Sunday when they host the Brooklyn Nets. Coverage begins at 12:30 p.m. on 98.5 The Sports Hub.
Sean Sylver can be heard on 98.5 The Sports Hub. Talk hoops with him on Twitter @TheSylverFox.