Well, that didn’t start well, now did it. At one point, the Griz were down to 13% from the field, and things did not look good when the Jazz were up 19-7 and the Griz had gone without a field goal for about six eternities.
When the starters began to be rotated out of the game, though, things started to change….
…for the better, for a moment at least. The bench, and Quincy Pondexter in particular, offered appropriate rhythm-changing efforts throughout the game. Here’s the story from a plus-minus perspective (not the useless stat, just some arbitrary and oh-so-wonderfully subjective observations).
Plus: ZBo on the boards. No, he was not able to hit the proverbial facet of the proverbial farm building for a while, but it came around, and 18 rebounds is just awesome no matter how you slice it. Also, and perhaps more importantly, after his first rest (and, I’d suspect, some choice words from Hollins), his focus and energy on D amped up quite nicely.
Minus: The Grizzlies’ defense below the FT line was flat-out atrocious for stretches. It wasn’t great, and then Speights came in and it went further into nothingness (and his offense wasn’t great either-just not a good night mentally for Mo). The other (spelled slightly differently) Maurice, that’d be Williams, was able to beat Conley on several occasions and flat-out went around Bayless a couple times with his quick first step to find, well, not really anyone guarding the hoop. This did change as the game went along, and was the largest reason that the Grizzlies were able to neutralize the Jazz lead in the second quarter.
Plus: Rudy Gay kept pluggin’ away at it. 3-17 from the field is, well, unconscionable, but 8-8 from the line shows that he was still making an effort. He showed no hesitation in the second half about mixing it up inside with Jefferson/Millsap/whoever/it didn’t matter. He was down in the trenches getting knocked around like a ragdoll, and kept at it.
Minus: Tony Allen tryin’ to earn his next contract on the offensive end. His defense, as always, led to a couple nice transition buckets, but the hide-your-eyes factor was in full effect on several fast breaks when he headed for the hoop. No way Hollins will do this (or is there?), but Allen’s too-far-outside-the-box style on offense is what kept him out of the starting lineup (and off the floor completely a lot of the time) during his first season.
Plus: Marc Gasol carrying the team. When they cast Atlas, this is the guy they should get to carry the Earth on his shoulders. It was tough on him, but it was tougher on the team when he was out, as Speights, as stated earlier, was not exactly having a career night in terms of mental focus. Cool as a cucumber, Gasol sank shot after shot-but guys like Pondexter and Conley had the big shots, and Marc surely cares not. He did a lot toward helping the team win, and that’s his only concern. 22/8/8 with 3 blocks. Wow.
One general thing of interest-yes, this game got chippy at the end, and it was easy to see that guys like Millsap/Jefferson/Mo Williams were frustrated by the Grit and the Grind wave that crashed over them starting in the second quarter. It was one of those situations that might inspire one to think “well, are these guys our next big rival?”. Haven’t we said that about the Spurs, the Thunder, and the Clippers? Maybe it’s just that the rest of the NBA really, really hate playing the Griz ‘cuz they know what they’re gonna face when they do?
Ok. Didn’t want to mention this, but dangit, ZBo, if you could have just backed it out with that offensive rebound with about 14 seconds to go instead of jacking the spiteful three, the whole flagrant thing would never have had chance to happen, but…oh well.
Back to something positive-new majority owner Robert Pera sat courtside, and it was just great to see him soaking it up. “Kid at the amusement park he just purchased” comes to mind, and trust me, I do not use that phrase in a denigrating fashion. Several times, the look on his face said “wow, I’m here, I can’t believe it, but I LOVE IT”. This cat has the passion.
Great win Grizzlies. That one surely did require a major dose of the Grit and the Grind.