While the Celtics narrowly beat the Grizzlies to win their sixth straight games, they were certainly fortunate in the waning moments. The C’s got the offensive rebound off a Jayson Tatum miss, so the Grizzlies would have to foul to extend the game. With the C’s already up 102-100, they would just need to make a pair of free throws to virtually win the game since they had possession.
But that’s when the mistakes piled up. Jrue Holiday got the pass cutting to the bucket, and he decided to go for the dunk … except he missed, with Jaren Jackson Jr. contesting the shot. So the Grizzlies got the ball with a chance to either tie or win the game. Eventually, they found an open Santi Aldama who let the go-ahead 3-pointer up. Fortunately for the Celtics, he missed. Kristaps Porzingis also got the block on Vince Williams Jr. to ice the game 102-100 after a frantic final seconds.
So there were some mistakes, and the C’s lucked out Sunday in Memphis. The Grizzlies were shorthanded, but C’s coach Joe Mazzulla said the opponent played harder while the Celtics were undisciplined. Yet, the Celtics escaped with the victory to get to 11-2 on the season.
“We got lucky to win that game,” Mazzulla said, via CLNS Media. “We talk about it a lot … like you can learn from losses, you can learn from wins. Sometimes you’re okay with a loss because you did the right things. Sometimes you’re pissed because you didn’t deserve to win. And I didn’t think we deserved to win the game because a lot of the stuff that we did.”
The Celtics have impressed through clutch games this year, and now they’re 5-2 in those games. They came into Sunday’s game with the NBA’s best net rating in clutch games, so the stats also backed that up. But the close win was a solid reminder that there is a luck aspect to close games and small sample sizes, where the ball can bounce a certain way or a hot shooter misses an open 3.
Regardless, the Celtics learned some lessons in a victory. They’ve opened their four-game road trip a perfect 3-0, with a game Monday in Charlotte up next. The Hornets have struggled this season, but they’ll look to make a statement with the Celtics in town.
“At the end of the game there, you either have to make the layup or you have to get fouled,” Mazzulla said. “That’s just how it is. You either gotta make it or you dribble the clock out and get fouled and you make your free throws, and the game’s over.”