Though the Celtics left Memphis with a win, improving their win streak to an NBA-best six games and advancing to 11-2 on the season, Joe Mazzulla and his guys know they got away with one Sunday night.
“We got lucky to win that game,” Mazzulla admitted postgame.
That assessment is correct. The Celtics were simply outplayed by a tough, physical, and determined Memphis Grizzlies team that had nine players on their injury report entering the game.
Fair or not, much of the Celtics’ growth and success has been compared to last year, and the team has undoubtedly seen improvement in major areas this season – Including closing out games in the clutch, which they did in their win over Memphis.
However, it felt like the Celtics overlooked their opponent on Sunday night, which led to a drop-off in focus, discipline, and execution – As the bad habit of playing down to their competition resurfaced.
The Celtics finished the night with 17 turnovers, eight coming by way of offensive fouls. The constant whistles killed the flow of the game, which was a contributor to Boston’s lack of execution.
The Celtics also surrendered 14 offensive rebounds, resulting in 21 second-chance points for Memphis.
“Maybe we have that feeling that we’re gonna anyway, you know? A little bit of that feeling is creeping up,” Kristaps Porzingis said postgame. “We have to stay even sharper in those situations and in those kind of games.”
Expecting perfection across an entire 82-game season is asinine – But the Celtics know they have to be better than they were Sunday night, evidenced by their unease even in the wake of a victory.
“The standard is very high for us. The guys in the locker room set a high standard for themselves, and we’re not always going to meet it,” Mazzulla said postgame. “I understand why a game is gonna go like this, it’s not gonna be the only time, but I don’t have to be happy about it.”
The standard the team has set in the locker room is understandably high. The Celtics know how talented they are and understand the opportunity they have to do something special this season.
“Even though we won the game, I think this is gonna make us think and come back better after this one,” Porzingis said.
A win is a win. They all count the same in the standings, but the Celtics know they can and need to play better than they did on Sunday night. The C’s were outshot, nearly doubled Memphis’ turnovers, and got killed on the offensive glass – Which almost always will result in a loss.
The fact the Celtics were able to win an ugly game with Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown finishing with a combined 32 points on 12-of-28 (42.8%) and 10 turnovers (eight from Tatum) is encouraging, but the C’s got away with one Sunday night, and need to learn from their mistakes.
“You can learn from losses, you can learn from wins,” Mazzulla explained postgame.
“Sometimes you are okay with a loss because you did some right things, and sometimes you are pissed because you didn’t deserve to win, and I didn’t think we deserved to win the game because of a lot of the stuff we did.”