NBA: Celtics land No. 2 seed with wire-to-wire win over Grizzlies
Jayson Tatum scored 26 of his 31 points in the first half in a 139-110 blowout of host Memphis on Sunday that, coupled with Milwaukee’s loss at Cleveland earlier in the day, powered the Boston Celtics to the Eastern Conference’s No. 2 seed.
Boston (51-31) closed out a strong final two-plus months to the 2021-22 regular season with a wire-to-wire win over the Western Conference’s No. 2 seed, albeit a shorthanded Grizzlies bunch.
Memphis (56-26), having clinched its playoff position more than a week ago, did not play the usual starting five of Ja Morant, Desmond Bane, Steven Adams, Jaren Jackson Jr. and Dillon Brooks. The Grizzlies instead started Ziaire Wiliams, Kyle Anderson, Xavier Tillman, De’Anthony Melton and John Konchar.
The Celtics took advantage, pushing the first-quarter lead to as many as 10 points. Tatum scored 14 points in the opening period to set the pace, then pumped in another 12 in a second quarter Boston won 40-24.
Tatum finished at 11-of-14 shooting from the floor in just 26:03 played, leading the Celtics to a 54.5 percent performance at 54 of 99.
— Boston Celtics (@celtics) April 11, 2022
The visitors went into intermission with a 23-point lead and inflated it to as many as 33 in the second half.
Jaylen Brown scored 18 points for Boston, Al Horford added 13 and Daniel Theis recorded a double-double of 11 points and 10 rebounds. Payton Pritchard and Luke Kornet chipped in 12 and 10 points off the bench.
Sunday’s win put an exclamation point on a remarkable midseason turnaround for the Celtics. After falling a game below .500 on Jan. 21, Boston finished 28-7 to vault into the East’s second spot.
As a result, the Celtics will face the winner of Tuesday’s play-in matchup between Brooklyn and Cleveland. Cleveland’s 133-115 win over Milwaukee on Sunday opened the door for Boston to clinch the No. 2 seed.
Santi Aldama led Memphis with a career-high 20 points off the bench and grabbed 10 rebounds to match a career-high in a double-double. Williams scored 18, and Konchar recorded a triple-double of 17 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists.
The Grizzlies will face Tuesday’s play-in winner between Minnesota and the Los Angeles Clippers in the first round.
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