By CLAY BAILEY – Associated Press
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Jayson Tatum scored 31 points, Jaylen Brown added 18 and the Boston Celtics secured second place in the East with a 139-110 win over the Memphis Grizzlies Sunday night in the regular season finals for both teams .
Al Horford added 13 points as the Celtics shot nearly 55% against the undermanned Grizzlies. With Milwaukee’s loss to Cleveland the previous Sunday, Boston was able to move up to second place with the win. Coach Ime Udoka was aware of the situation as the game progressed and even kept up with the Philadelphia 76ers’ situation, although a Celtics win secured them second place.
Boston meets the winner of the play-in game between Cleveland and Brooklyn.
“We were worried about ourselves and getting some guys some reps,” Udoka said.
Santi Aldama led Memphis with 20 points and Ziaire Williams finished with 18 points. John Konchar had his first career triple-double with 17 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists. Kyle Anderson scored 16 points.
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“It was pretty neat. It was pretty cool,” Konchar said. “You can thank my teammates for the shots.”
Depending on where they were in the table, the teams approached the game differently. Memphis played the regular season after finishing second in the Western Conference behind the Phoenix Suns. The Grizzlies dropped most of their regular rotation players.
Boston entered a blockade for the No. 2-4 seeds and competed with Milwaukee and Philadelphia for postseason placement. This meant that all of the Celtics’ regulars were playing against the Grizzlies’ reserves.
And Memphis’ makeshift lineup couldn’t keep up with the Celtics’ regular rotation.
The Celtics steadily increased the lead in the first half, shooting 63%, including a follow-up to 11 of 22 from outside the arc. That, along with Memphis, who are struggling at 34%, gives the Celtics a 72-49 lead at the break — the most points the Grizzlies have dropped in a first half this season.
The Celtics maintained their lead into the third period, leading 104-79 as Udoka set the starters for the final quarter.
Most of the post-game discussions weren’t about the game itself, but about the anticipation of the postseason.
“We did a little prep work for Minnesota and the Clippers,” Memphis coach Taylor Jenkins said of the potential first-round clash. “Obviously things have changed since the last time we (the Clippers) played with Paul George.”
He added that the plan “is really just a kind of fine-tuning of our simple game plan to get into Game 1 that our boys can rely on.”
Boston rallied after being below 0.500 in late January. The Celtics’ play over the past three months gives them confidence going into the postseason.
“It’s exciting,” Horford said. “In mid-January, I don’t know if that’s a possibility. We would have settled for 6 or 5. Being in this position is a testament to our group.”
Memphis coach Taylor Jenkins doesn’t pay much attention to social media, but chuckled when he was told Ja Morant wanted to push for the Grizzlies’ leader to be named coach of the year. “I don’t see it, but that’s pretty cool,” Jenkins said, adding that it would be more of a “team award” than an individual recognition for him.
Celtics: Nik Stauskas missed his fourth game with a right ankle sprain. … Tatum had 14 points in the first quarter. He converted a four-point game late in the first half. … The 72 points scored in the first half equals the most points Boston has scored in a first half this season. The Celtics also had 72 against Minnesota on March 27. … C Daniel Theis had 11 points and hit his season-high in rebounds with 10, the fourth time he’s hit that mark.
Grizzlies: G Desmond Bane set a franchise record for free throw percentage with a 90.4. The previous record was set by OJ Mayo in the 2008-09 campaign. … The injury list included Steven Adams (left ankle pain), Dillon Brooks (right hip pain), Jaren Jackson Jr. (left thigh pain), Tyus Jones (left hand pain) and Ja Morant (treating pain in the right knee). …Desmond Bane and Brandon Clarke were listed as questionable, and while not disqualified, they did not play.
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