Grizzlies-Celtics Preview

The Boston Celtics’ problems at home this season have been
surprising. The Memphis Grizzlies’ recent road renaissance is
equally shocking.

While the Celtics look to buck both trends Wednesday night in
Boston, the Grizzlies will be trying to extend the longest road
winning streak in franchise history to seven.

Dominance at home had been a hallmark of the Celtics’ recent
success, with the team going 70-12 at the TD Garden in the first
two seasons following the arrival of Kevin Garnett and Ray
Allen.

A defeat Wednesday would match that loss total in barely
one-third of the games. Boston is 18-11 at home this season, and a
win over the Grizzlies would match its longest home winning streak
of the season – three.

The Celtics (40-22) needed a fourth-quarter comeback to beat
Washington 86-83 in their last home game Sunday, but Boston was on
the other side of a late surge two nights later.

Milwaukee outscored the visiting Celtics 14-7 on Tuesday night
in the final 5:45 of its 86-84 victory. Boston got subpar
contributions from some of its biggest stars, as Allen scored three
points and was 0 of 3 from the field in 34 minutes, while Paul
Pierce shot 3 of 13 and missed a potential game-tying jumper at the
buzzer.

“I loved the shot,” Pierce said. “I thought I got to my spot.
Sometimes they fall and sometimes they don’t. That’s the way the
ball bounces sometimes. We gave away some possessions there in the
fourth quarter. … So we have to do a better job, especially in
fourth quarters, of knuckling down.”

Late meltdowns have been a recurring problem for the Celtics
during their mediocre stretch since Christmas. They blew
double-digit leads in the final 12 minutes of losses to Orlando and
the Los Angeles Lakers in late January.

Boston was in much better shape the last time it faced the
Grizzlies, winning 110-105 at Memphis on Dec. 14 for its sixth
straight victory in the series. The victory was the Celtics’ 11th
in a row overall and improved them to 20-4, but they’re 20-18
since.

The Grizzlies (33-31) have been involved in two other streaks
lately. Their 107-101 win over New Jersey on Monday snapped an
eight-game home losing streak, but they’ve won all six of their
road games since the All-Star break – five of them against Eastern
Conference opponents.

Memphis had gone 8-33 away from home in each of the previous
three seasons.

The team needs more victories if it hopes to close its four-game
deficit behind eighth-place Portland in the West, and having Zach
Randolph on the floor should help. He’s expected to return
Wednesday after missing the game against the Nets due to back
problems.

The Grizzlies struggled at times without their power forward,
but Mike Conley and Rudy Gay each stepped up with 21 points while
Marc Gasol added 19.

“What you can’t make up for is having that dominant post player
that makes a team have to double or account for him all the time,”
Memphis coach Lionel Hollins told the NBA’s official Web site,
“whether it’s in the post or on the offensive glass. There were a
lot of times we missed shots that Zach would have been in a
position possibly to get an offensive rebound. We missed that.”

Randolph is averaging 24.8 points and 14.0 rebounds during
Memphis’ road winning streak.