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Hard-working Grizzlies sink slumping Celtics

The SportsXchange

BOSTON -- Memphis Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins was looking for more energy from his team at TD Garden on Wednesday night.

He got it.

"It was a very gratifying win because we really got back to playing our brand of basketball," Hollins said after the Grizzlies raised their record to 20-9, the best start in franchise history, with a 93-83 victory over the struggling Boston Celtics.

"The ball moved from side to side, we had about four 24-second violations from over-passing, but I'll take that. The pace was really good, and we defended and rebounded really well, so it was a very good win."

Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley broke out of a shooting slump, scoring 23 points and dishing out nine assists while committing just one turnover in 44 minutes. Over the previous three games, he was 9-for-38 from the floor, 3-for-12 from 3-point range, but he went 8-for-15, 3-for-6 in this one.

Rudy Gay, who also was struggling, had 19 points and six rebounds, and former Celtic Tony Allen contributed 15 points and five rebounds.

Earlier in the day, a Garden equipment man gave Allen his 2008 championship jersey. Allen said he was choked up by the gesture, but the emotion ended when the game started. He played well, shooting 6-for-8 from the floor, and his toughest competition may have been from a heckler behind the bench.

"You come back (to play) a team that you won a championship with ... there's no greater feeling than coming back and getting that win," Allen said. "It was just a regular game on the schedule, and I took it as a regular game on the schedule, put all my feelings and my emotions to the side and came out here and did everything Coach Lionel Hollins asked me to do."

Avery Bradley, who, in essence, has replaced Allen as Boston's defensive guard, made his season debut, finally returning from two shoulder surgeries. But even the boost of getting back Bradley, who had four points in 20 minutes, and seeing Rajon Rondo play despite a hip injury wasn't enough. The Celtics, wiped out in three games in California, lost their fourth straight, their fifth defeat in the past six games.

The 10-point defeat dropped Boston's average losing margin during the skid. The Celtics (14-17) have lost the four by just under 20 points per game, and next they host the Indiana Pacers before traveling to play the Atlanta Hawks and the New York Knicks. Tough times.

"I told (the team) whatever we're doing wrong is not going to get fixed in a day," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. "I thought we played in stretches where you liked the efforts ... then we had a letdown. At halftime they were shooting 61 percent; they ended up shooting 48 percent, which means we played terrific defense but just couldn't make shots."

Memphis came into the game as the NBA's defensive leader, limiting opponents to an average of 90 points, and it easily beat that number.

The Grizzlies, who hit eight of their first 12 3-point attempts (before missing their last six), used a 21-8 run in the second quarter to lead by nine at the break. They extended the advantage to 18 early in the fourth quarter. The visitors then had to hold off a mild Boston uprising to take home the win.

Memphis scored its last field goal with 7:15 left but nailed down the win at the foul line.

Trailing 79-61, the Celtics went on a 10-2 run to cut the Memphis lead to 10 with 7:36 left, finally giving the TD Garden crowd something to cheer about.

Rondo, who had ice on his hip when he sat on the bench, had 11 points and 10 assists in 40 minutes, while Paul Pierce had 17 points and seven rebounds. Kevin Garnett added 12 points and seven boards for the Celtics.

"We sit in here and we talk about being positive, don't get our heads down," Pierce said. "We understand you feel you're going to get the next one. It's like any confident person -- when things don't go your way, you feel the next thing is going to go your way, and that's how this team feels."

Asked about Bradley, who last played against the 76ers in the second round of last year's playoffs, Rivers said, "I thought, honestly, with him on the floor early on, the whole defense was pretty good; and then it went back to (just) Avery playing great defense."

Marresse Speight and Darrell Arthur each had 10 points off the bench for Memphis. Arthur had been 0-for-13 in his regular season career from 3-point range, he went 2-for-3 from long range Wednesday.

NOTES: Memphis guard Jerryd Bayless left the game in the first half with a left ankle strain and didn't return. ... While Rondo was questionable coming in, Bradley's return was expected, and Rivers threw them out there together at the start. "I just think the quicker we get to our lineup, the better," Rivers said. "We're going to get to it anyway, so why wait?" The first Boston basket? Rondo to Bradley for a layup. ... Allen was proud of the blood stain that was still on the bottom of his '08 shirt. ... Big man Fab Melo, one of two Syracuse players drafted by the Celtics in 2012, was recalled from the Development League, but only as a technicality. He was in Boston to be examined for a mild concussion (suffered walking into a hotel door). In 12 games with the Maine Red Claws, he is averaging 10.9 points, 6.9 rebounds and 3.83 blocks per game and set a league record for blocks when he had 14 to go with 15 points and 16 boards Dec. 22. ... The Grizzlies, who blew a game in Indiana on Monday night, go home to play the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday night before visiting Phoenix to open a three-game trip.

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