With a much tougher opponent on tap for tonight, the Celtics played to the level of their much weaker opponent last night.
The Celtics improved to an NBA-best 28-3 with a 100-96 victory over the lowly Memphis Grizzlies at TD Banknorth Garden. Boston enters tonight's game at Detroit (26-7) with eight straight wins since losing to the Pistons Dec. 19. Kevin Garnett scored 23 points last night and Paul Pierce added a double-double of 23 points and 10 rebounds.
The highlight reel is usually reserved for Ray Allen, not Tony Allen. It was quite the opposite on this night. With 9.3 seconds remaining, Ray Allen scored his first points on two free throws, not reaching double figures for the first time this season. It was nearly the first time the seven-time All-Star was held scoreless since Feb. 26, 1997, when he missed all seven of his shots against Atlanta. Tony Allen, meanwhile, scored a season-high 20 points on 8-of-15 shooting.
Grizzlies rookie guard Mike Conley was making the second start of his career, and though Celtic Rajon Rondo admitted before the game he knew little about the former Ohio State star, he learned quickly.
The Celtics missed 9 of their first 12 shots to fall behind, 12-7. Conley nailed a 3-pointer to give the Grizzlies a 15-9 lead. Two more Conley baskets gave Memphis a 21-16 edge with 1:36 left in the quarter. And a free throw by Conley with 4.2 seconds remaining gave the Grizzlies a 24-22 lead.
Conley had 8 points while playing the entire the first quarter. Ray Allen missed all six of his field goal attempts in the quarter.
With the Celtics needing a spark, they turned to Tony Allen. His jumper gave Boston the lead, 28-26. A 9-2 run by the Celtics, including 7 points by Tony Allen, made it 43-39 Boston, with 3:42 left in the first half. Pierce's jumper with 46.5 seconds left gave the Celtics an 47-43 lead. An alley-oop dunk by Rudy Gay off an out-of-bounds pass from Mike Miller brought Memphis within 47-45.
Tony Allen scored 15 points on 6-of-8 shooting in the second quarter.
The Celtics used a 16-4 run to take a 65-53 lead on a Garnett 10-foot turnaround. A Pierce 3-point play gave Boston a 68-55 lead. The Grizzlies clawed back with a 6-0 run to trim their deficit to 68-61 with 2:41 left in the third quarter.
The game was stopped momentarily with 2:18 left in the third when Gay, the former UConn standout, lost a tooth when he was accidentally hit by James Posey, who received four stitches in his finger. Gay had 14 points and five rebounds at the time, and was replaced by Stromile Swift.
Garnett's 3-point play with 54.5 seconds left in the quarter pushed Boston up, 71-61. A Posey 3-pointer gave the Celtics a 74-63 lead with 30.9 seconds left. Boston finished the third quarter with a 74-65 lead, with Ray Allen 0 for 8 from the field.
Juan Carlos Navarro nailed a 3-pointer to trim Memphis's deficit to 78-73 with 9:05 remaining. A 13-4 run by the Celtics gave them a 91-77 lead on a two-handed jam by Glen Davis with 5:20 left.
Instead of resting Pierce and Garnett for tonight, coach Doc Rivers put them back in with 3:36 remaining and Boston up, 91-82. A Pau Gasol dunk brought Memphis within 91-84 with 3:24 left.
Gay (21 points) made an athletic jumper over Garnett with 1:25 left to bring Memphis to 91-86. Garnett's two free throws pushed the Celtics up, 93-86, with 1:11 left. Navarro's layup kept Memphis alive with 54.2 seconds left. Two Posey free throws with 44.3 seconds left pushed the Celtics up, 95-88. A putback by Garnett sealed the game by 20 seconds left, giving Boston a 97-89 lead.