Grizzlies-Celtics Preview (Dec 27, 2016)

BY AP • December 26, 2016

BOSTON -- It was just last Tuesday that Isaiah Thomas torched the Grizzlies with 44 points as the Boston Celtics left Memphis with a come-from-behind overtime win.

On Tuesday night, Thomas, in the midst of a hot streak that began after he returned from a groin injury, gets a chance to do it again as the teams meet at TD Garden.

The Celtics, who have won five of their last six, host a team that, since losing to Boston, has won at Detroit and at home against the Houston Rockets -- but lost at Orlando on Monday night.

On Sunday in New York, the Celtics blew a late lead but escaped with the win over the Knicks. Thomas scored 27 points to keep his average at just over 30 per game in the past six. The win came after a tough home loss to Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder in Boston.

Marcus Smart hit the go-ahead 3-pointer and the Celtics played defense on two straight possessions to raise their record to 18-13.

"I was really pleased," Celtics coach Brad Stevens said of the gritty Christmas Day win. "I just told them in there, they've showed a lot of toughness over the last few weeks.

"But certainly the last -- we basically played three games in 60 hours, and in three different cities. And our guys just, there was never an excuse. We were just going to play as hard as we could."

Stevens will be even more pleased if his team can figure out a way to win at home, where the Celtics, who just began a stretch of 16 of 22 games at home, are just 6-6.

Thomas scored 34 points and engaged in a scoring duel with Westbrook in the fourth quarter on Friday night. Westbrook finished with 45 points. On Monday, the guards were named players of the week of their respective conferences.

At Memphis, Thomas scored 36 of his career-high 44 points after halftime and through the overtime. He was 17 of 17 from the foul line in that game -- and scored the most points ever by a Celtics player against the Grizzlies.

"I just told myself to be a little more aggressive and look for my shot a little more," Thomas said, later adding: "I wasn't trying to get 40, but I knew I needed to be more aggressive."

The Celtics trailed 45-31 at halftime but rallied, and the Grizzlies went flat.

"Basically, we stayed in the locker room at halftime," Memphis coach David Fizdale said.

On Monday night, Memphis fell to 20-13 overall and an impressive 8-6 on the road. They enter Tuesday night's game 7-0 in the back half of back-to-backs.

The Grizzlies fell behind early and never made much of a run at the Magic on Monday night.

"We were dead tonight," Fizdale said. "For whatever reason, we had nothing in the tank."

The coach was happy to be able to get right back at it, saying, "I'm glad we play right away after getting our butts kicked. We don't deserve a day off after that. It's time to get right back to work.

"And it's a team that you've got to instantly respect walking in. So hopefully our guys will regroup from this and we'll go up there and get a tough win."

"It hurts when it happens, but the wonderful thing is that we play tomorrow so we can kind of erase this out of our minds," said veteran Vince Carter, who played in his 1,300th NBA game, moving him into a tie with Ray Allen for 20th place on the career list.

Before the game, Fizdale asked about Carter, who turns 40 next month. "It's an honor to have him on the team," Fizdale said.

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