Celtics-Grizzlies takeaways: Tatum, Porzingis dominate on Marcus Smart Night

Celtics-Grizzlies takeaways: Tatum, Porzingis dominate on Marcus Smart Night originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

Three Key Storylines

The Boston Celtics took care of business against an extremely short-handed Memphis Grizzlies squad on Sunday night.

Memphis listed 13 players, including star guard Ja Morant and ex-C’s guard Marcus Smart, on their injury report for the matchup. While Smart didn’t get to suit up against his former team, he did get a warm welcome back to TD Garden from the team and the loyal fans in attendance.

As for the game itself, the Celtics started cold but found their groove in the second quarter. They ended the first half on a 24-6 run and kept their foot on the gas from there, asserting their dominance with a 131-91 win. That marked their second-largest margin of victory and their fewest points allowed this season.

Without Jaylen Brown (low back tightness), the C’s were led by fellow All-Star Jayson Tatum (34 points) and Kristaps Porzingis (26 points). After Boston emptied the bench to start the fourth quarter, two-way big man Neemias Queta made his presence felt with eight points, eight rebounds, and two steals in only nine minutes.

Scotty Pippen Jr. (19 points) and GG Jackson (18 points) paced the Grizzlies in the scoring column.

The Celtics (38-12) will enjoy two days off before continuing their homestand Wednesday night vs. the Atlanta Hawks (22-27). First, here are three takeaways from Sunday’s action.

No answers for Jayson Tatum or Kristaps Porzingis

A well-rested Tatum feasted on the lowly, short-handed Grizzlies.

The five-time All-Star started hot with 11 points in the first quarter. He only got better as the game went on, notching 12 more points in the second to enter the half with 23.

Tatum continued to make it look easy and help Boston pull away in the third. The 25-year-old tallied 34 points, eight rebounds, seven assists, and a steal before being taken out at the start of the fourth quarter with a big lead. He made 12 of his 22 shots, including six of his 12 3-pointers.

The Grizzlies also couldn’t contain Porzingis, who helped Tatum put the game out of reach. The 7-foot-2 Latvian finished with 26 points (10-17 FG, 2-5 3-PT), 17 of them coming in the first half. He also totaled eight rebounds, two assists, two blocks, and a steal in 27 minutes before being sitting the entire fourth.

Tatum and Porzingis combined for 60 points on 22-of-39 shooting through three quarters.

They’ll have extra fresh legs when they host the Hawks on Wednesday night. That’s particularly important for Porzingis, who has dealt with some ankle issues recently.

Jordan Walsh is on the board

Celtics rookie Jordan Walsh only appeared in two regular-season games before Sunday night. He had four rebounds in three minutes during his NBA debut on Jan. 17 and logged his first assist in the second game against the Miami Heat on Jan. 25, again only playing three minutes.

With the game essentially decided heading into the fourth quarter, Walsh and the rest of Boston’s reserves had their time to shine. The Celtics’ 38th overall pick in the 2023 NBA Draft took advantage of his opportunity.

Walsh earned the first points of his NBA career with a strong transition dunk and the TD Garden crowd reacted accordingly.

That was Walsh’s only shot attempt in his eight minutes. The Arkansas product also logged an assist and a rebound.

Marcus Smart gets a warm welcome back to Boston

The game was overshadowed by the anticipated return of Marcus Smart. It was the longtime Celtics guard’s first appearance at TD Garden since being sent to Memphis last summer in the three-team deal that brought Porzingis to Boston.

Before tip-off, C’s fans showed their appreciation for Smart by giving him a standing ovation as he entered the arena. He also took a moment to greet a few of his former teammates.

The Celtics honored Smart with an emotional tribute video during the first quarter. Fans followed with another standing ovation along with “We love Marcus” chants.

Later, the C’s recognized Smart’s off-the-court contributions by giving him the “Hero Among Us” honor. The “Hero Among Us” award is presented “to an individual or individuals who, through their unique commitment and humanitarian spirit, have made exceptional and lasting contributions to our community.”

Smart made a tremendous impact with his charitable contributions during his nine years in Boston. One of his biggest contributions was his YounGameChanger Foundation, which creates opportunities through STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) assistance for inner-city youth and provides inspiration for pediatric cancer patients and their families.

“What you’ll see today… His effect that he’s had on people off the court is even more than what he’s done on the court,” Celtics head coach Joe Mazzulla said of Smart before Sunday’s game.

Toward the end of the game, Celtics fans came together one last time for a “Thank you, Marcus” chant.

Smart unfortunately didn’t suit up against the C’s due to a finger injury that has kept him sidelined since Jan. 9. Still, it surely was a night the former Defensive Player of the Year won’t forget.

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