|Grizzlies limp into Boston to face thriving Celtics|
BOSTON -- To say the numbers are against the Memphis Grizzlies Monday night at TD Garden would be an understatement.
Besides having to face one of the best teams in the league -- the Boston Celtics coming out of their prolonged All-Star break with two road wins -- the Grizzlies have lost nine games in a row to fall to 18-40. They have dropped nine straight on the road -- and are 0-9 this year against the Eastern Conference on the road this season.
They lost Friday, at home, and Saturday, on the road, against the Cleveland Cavaliers and Miami Heat by a combined 49 points and are 5-22 on the road this season.
Oh, and they have lost five straight games to the Celtics, falling each of the last three seasons in Boston.
To make things tougher, top scorer Tyreke Evans, who was not supposed to still be with the team after the trade deadline, was slated for an MRI Sunday on his ribs. He is listed as day-to-day and coach J.B. Bickerstaff said he didn't anticipate a long absence for Evans, averaging 19.4 points per game.
In addition, Chandler Parsons missed Saturday night's game in Miami with an illness and is questionable for Monday. In all, the Grizzlies were missing five players in Miami.
Andrew Harrison, who led the Grizzlies with 17 points Saturday, said after the game, "We didn't stick together again, started getting frustrated, started trying to come back all on one play, started trying to come back on our own. It was everybody."
Center Marc Gasol sat out Saturday to rest but will play Monday, when the Grizzlies have to deal with the Celtics (42-19). He had 30 points and 10 rebounds in a 102-93 loss to Boston in Memphis Dec. 16.
The Celtics, who lost three straight before the break, got the injured Marcus Smart back Friday night in Detroit against the Pistons, and his defense and spirit paid off immediately. Boston hosts Memphis and the Charlotte Hornets before a Saturday night national ABC game in Houston against the Rockets.
Saturday night's win over the Knicks in New York left the Celtics a half-game behind the Toronto Raptors in the Eastern Conference.
Smart, who was out after lacerating his right hand smacking a picture frame in a Los Angeles hotel, provides needed defense and depth for his team.
After scoring 31 points Saturday night, Kyrie Irving, asked if the Celtics look better defensively, said, "Well, yeah. It's just the appreciation of Marcus Smart there."
Irving took Saturday night's game over in the third quarter, scoring 11 points as his team pulled ahead against the scrappy and running Knicks. He also had nine rebounds and eight assists.
The win came in the second NBA start for rookie Daniel Theis. A night after he scored a career-high 19 points and grabbed seven rebounds off the bench in Detroit (on the same day his native Germany upset Canada in hockey at the Olympics), he started for the injured Aron Baynes (elbow) and had six points and seven rebounds in 18:13.
Rookie Jayson Tatum scored 19 points and grabbed 10 rebounds and Irving posted 20 points and six assists in Boston's win at Memphis in December.