- Chris Forsberg, ESPN Staff Writer
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Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports
Will Rajon Rondo be healthy enough to suit up against the Grizzlies?The Boston Celtics (14-16, 9-5 home) host the Memphis Grizzlies (19-9, 6-6 away) on Wednesday night at TD Garden (7:30 p.m., CSN). Here's what to watch for:
* BRADLEY'S BACK; RONDO QUESTIONABLE: Staggering back home after getting walloped with three consecutive losses by 18+ points to close out a four-game road trip, the Celtics should get a boost with the 2012-13 season debut of guard Avery Bradley. Coming off two shoulder surgeries and nearly seven months of contact-free activity, Bradley could get tossed right into the starting lineup for a Boston team searching for its familiar brand of defense. The question is whether Rajon Rondo will be there next to him as Rondo is nursing a hip bruise that he struggled to play through the last time out in Sacramento. Rondo sat out of practice on Tuesday and will be a game-time decision.
* SYNERGY SNAPSHOT: The Grizzlies rank in the bottom third of the league (27th overall) offensively, averaging 0.885 points per play according to Synergy Sports data. Memphis is a poor spot-up shooting team, but utilizes its size to thrive in the post. If the Celtics can contain Zach Randolph (0.95 ppp, 68th percentile) and Marc Gasol (1 ppp, 85th percentile), they'll be content to allow Rudy Gay, Mike Conley and old friend Tony Allen to fire away from the perimeter. Defense is what fuels the Grizzlies, whose opponents are averaging a mere 0.868 points per play. Memphis is the best halfcourt defense in the league and ranks in the top 10 among its opponent's five most common play types (and no worse than 15th in any play type). Gasol is a menace (0.659 ppp, 97th percentile), while Allen (0.648 ppp, 98th percentile) keeps putting up strong numbers as a lockdown wing. The weak link is Gay, while Conley is susceptible to the pick-and-roll.
* CELEBRATE ME HOME: The Celtics will play 10 of 15 games in January at the friendly confines of TD Garden. Rivers downplayed the significance, but admitted Boston should get a boost in front of its fans (well, assuming they don't fall behind and bring out the boo birds). "We have to play better. We’re not playing as well as I believe we can," Rivers said. "And we haven’t proven that we can yet. I keep saying that we can, but we haven't done that, we’ve given no proof to that. Obviously, you’re playing at home, you want to win every home game. [There is] a lot of tough games at home, including the one [versus Memphis], but you’re at home, that should give you some life." Noting Boston's less-than-intimidating 9-5 mark at home this season, rookie Jared Sullinger added, "We've got to protect home court."
* BRING YOUR HARD HATS: Points could be at a premium, especially if Rondo doesn't suit up for Boston. The Grizzlies don't mind playing ugly and will lean on their interior defense while forcing Boston to shoot those outside looks it's more than willing to take. But if Boston is going to be competitive, it has to play the same sort of gritty defense that Memphis will display. Having Bradley back could aid that cause, but after getting torched both inside and out during the West Coast swing, Boston needs to tighten up all around. The Celtics would benefit from limiting the damage around the rim and forcing the Grizzlies to try to beat them with jumpers.
7dSteve Ilardi and Jeremias Engelmann