The Celtics steamrolled the Grizzlies with a massive 52-15 run and rolled to a 119-95 win at TD Garden on Wednesday night.
The only concern for Boston was the right groin strain suffered by Jayson Tatum. Tatum appeared to suffer the injury on a drive with about five minutes left in the third quarter. He stayed at that end of the court after the other Celtics went back on defense, and when Boston regained possession Brad Stevens quickly called timeout and Tatum immediately limped to the locker room.
But Tatum returned to the bench for the fourth quarter and after the game Stevens did not sound worried about his status.
“It didn’t sound like it was too bad,” Stevens said. “I’m not too concerned about it. He’ll get a test tonight, just to make sure. We’ll figure out more tomorrow when we travel [to Orlando].”
Before the injury, Tatum had scored a game-high 23 points to lead Boston to another emphatic win. Boston made 50.6 percent of its shots and forced 19 turnovers.
Observations from the game:
■ In a change for the Celtics, the opponent did not start the game by making just about every shot that it took. The Grizzlies made just 1 of their first 7 shots and committed 3 turnovers over the opening minutes. The bad news for the Grizzlies was that their much bigger and damaging drought would come later in the half.
■ Ja Morant has gotten plenty of attention this season, and deservedly so. But second-year forward Jaren Jackson has been excellent, too. In one first-half stretch he showed off his versatility. After hitting a pair of 3-pointers, he caught Gordon Hayward from behind and swatted his jumper, and then swatted Kemba Walker’s attempt near the rim on a fast break on the next play.
■ It was probably the quietest game of Morant’s rookie season. He was just 1 for 5 and had 2 points, 5 assists, and 1 rebound in 24 minutes.
■ Marcus Smart started the game 0 for 5 from the field and 0 for 4 on 3-pointers. The last time Jaylen Brown sat out, Smart fired up 22 3-pointers. There were some groans after that fourth miss on Wednesday. But he recalibrated and started making some important plays as a distributor, including a pair of flashy assists.
■ One of those assists came on a slow-to-materialize fast break in the second quarter. Walker took a tumble on defense, and as the Celtics started to push the other way, Javonte Green stopped to run over and pick up Walker. That did not stop Green from racing back into the play, however, and Smart dished a highlight-reel over-the-shoulder pass to Green for a 3-point play.
■ That play was part of the Celtics’ game-defining 23-0 run. They obviously made some shots during the streak, but it was mostly sparked by an aggressive and relentless defense. Not only were the Grizzlies not scoring, they were having trouble even getting shots up. Over a stretch of nearly three minutes, Memphis attempted only three shots, missing all of them. In the second quarter the Celtics had 4 steals, 4 blocked shots, and 6 forced turnovers.
■ Nearly four minutes into the third quarter, neither Walker nor Hayward had made a shot, Especially with Brown out, it’s almost unfathomable that the Celtics could have had a 17-point lead at that juncture, but they did, thanks in large part to their swarming defense.
■ The Celtics did very little wrong in this game, but the first possession of the second half was puzzling. It ended with a shot-clock violation, and when the buzzer went off they weren’t even close to attempting a shot, and it wasn’t like they were facing pressure. Unusual for the first play of a quarter.
■ With 4:37 left in the third quarter, Hayward made a powerful drive to the hoop and converted a two-handed dunk in traffic. That’s the kind of confidence and aggression the Celtics want to see from the former All-Star.
■ The Celtics have played some really long games this season, in part because of seemingly interminable official reviews and coach’s challenges. This game did not have either, and it was over in exactly two hours. Much more palatable.