Six in a row, and the last two over two of the NBA’s best teams.
And on national TV to boot.
And with some typical sore-loser business from Perk.
And also, RUDY GAY. So much to like about this game. Gotta get busy rooting against the Clippers (not for the Heat, mind you, just against the Clippers), so I’ll not be long-winded, but there were some key items regarding this game that served as bellwethers of how it turned out…
-Rudy Gay. YOWIE. Over the last two games, Rudy has faced perhaps the best two small (sometimes power) forwards in the NBA, and each time, he has proven that he is able, and MUCH more importantly, willing to match up with the top guys in the game. Lots of his FG’s weren’t assisted…and that is just fine. He’s much more comfortable initiating the offense (although the first pass not happening until the low teens on the shot clock will always make me crazy about Hollins teams), and he hit several of those impossibly lifted Rudy Gay shots with under 5 on the clock against OKC. When the Thunder closed it to 75-69 on a Westbrook 3 (by the way, thanks as always for shooting your team into oblivion, Russell), Rudy took over. Three ISO-Rudy jumpers in a row to get the lead back to a more comfortable margin. And all with a “just going about my business” look on his face.
-Two key defensive stretches: the Griz held the Thunder scoreless for the last three minutes of the second quarter and for the last two minutes of the third quarter. I bet that just makes Hollins jump for joy (I think we’d all love to see him jump for joy over just about anything). Although outrebounded for the game by one, during these defensive stretches the Grizzlies worked hard on the boards and kept themselves in a position to maintain and stretch a lead. Speaking of stretching leads…
-…yep, the bench again. Ellington and Speights, largely due to matchups, didn’t see nearly as much floor time (although Ellington did manage to go 3-5 in only eleven minutes), but Bayless and Pondexter were huge. QP went 4-10, but his scoring was timely and his defense was heady yet intense. Pondexter’s understanding of what is expected of him on both ends is keeping TA fresher on the bench (them knees ain’t 21 any more) for when his defensive intensity may be required last five minutes of a super close game. Bayless really looks like he’s finally found a home with the Grizzlies, and isn’t it nice to hear those words about YET ANOTHER player? Bayless was perhaps a bit overeager on D leading to some foul trouble (although, a couple of those calls…YEEESH), but his competence and scoring ability are giving the Grizzlies a reliable option at PG that they haven’t had since…well, if you don’t count GV…it’s been since, uh, Bobby Jackson? Has it?
-As Charles Barkley says, “you got to have a crazy guy”. Ask Kendrick Perkins, he might tell you the Griz have two (and Ken Mauer almost certainly would). ZBo is one of the only guys in the NBA who is completely unafraid to get in Perkins’ face, and I just love it. Odd to see two ejections without any strictly extracurricular physical contact-they must have been saying some very magical words to one another. Also loved Gasol popping Westbrook in the head and drawing a rise out of him. Funny stuff. No, Gasol’s not the other crazy guy, that’s TA of course, but it was just fine to see Gasol take out a bit of frustration with his offensive slump on one of the guys in the NBA who is most consistently an annoying gnat in the ear of his opponents.
Conley and Bayless combine for 11 assists and only 3 TO’s (the team had only 8 for the game). The Griz go 7-17, a perfectly respectable 41%.
The Grizzlies have rung the alarm clock on the NBA-they’d all better wake up and notice.