And the eyes of the NBA universe turned to Phoenix, Arizona.
Hey, guess what? MUST WIN. One team trying to clinch a playoff spot, one team trying to maintain a *chance* at making the postseason, and each trying to take that spot from the other.
Even if the Grizzlies were not involved in this Highlander-type operation, it’d be the most riveting NBA game of the season thus far.
Seven things about one crazy NBA game…
Thing one: Hang on, lemme go take a handful of beta blockers.
Ok, I’m back. Thing one: Seems minor when compared to the fact that the Grizz just clinched a fourth consecutive playoff spot, but the Grizzlies went 7-7 from the line in the first half…and a gut-wrenching 4-8 in the second. That sort of inconsistency won’t fly in the playoffs.
Thing two: Ok, that was enough negativity for the time being. Let’s gush for a moment about Zach Randolph. He took 25 shots, and we didn’t even notice, did we? It’s been a long time since we saw ZBo prosecute a full-on war against a team like he did against the Suns this night. Sure, he got beaten up a good bit-but PJ Tucker, the Morris brothers, Channing Frye, and the rest will all be feeling it tomorrow more than will ZBo. He was attuned on a playoff level to from where and when the double was going to come, and he split several and threw some nice passes out of others, most importantly the one he threw to Conley for the huge three late in Q4.
Thing three: Mike Miller was the reason the Grizzlies won this game. Yep, said it. Yep, mean it. 8-11 with 5- 6 from three gave the Grizzlies just enough perimeter punch to hold off the Suns. His durability has not surprised me as much as his dramatic uptick after the all-star break-one would think that the rubber would start to wear off the tires later in the season, but his promise to “empty the clip” after the break is one that he has thus far kept.
Thing four: NOT a reason the Grizzlies won the game? Seventeen turnovers, and lots of them were nasty lazy-pass turnovers. Credit must be given to the Suns for playing what they knew would be high-probability passing lanes, but on too many occasions the Grizzlies did not anticipate defensive players’ movements and that lack of awareness led to a lot of steals for the Suns, twelve in all with Dragic getting five on his own.
Thing five: Not to be missed? The Grizzlies held the Suns to 91 points. The Grizzlies owned the Suns this season, and the Grizzlies’ ability to pick and choose who gets the open shot for the Suns is a big reason why. Dragic is a flat-out stud PG, but his ankle was bothering him for sure. His being slowed by injury was part of why the Suns had only fifteen assists on 38 made FG’s, but the Grizzlies’ defense was good this night at preventing too many easy buckets. Yes, the Suns worked a few perfect pick-and-rolls, but we only remember those because there were so few of them.
Thing six: Tony Allen winding up on his back twice. That’s the energy the team needs from him, and they got it this night. It was easy to see how amped up he was, and he was mostly treat as opposed to trick (couple clankers, who cares, THE GRIZZLIES CLINCHED THE PLAYOFFS!).
Thing seven: In the words of my Dad, who’d’a thunk it? Back at 10-15, or when Gasol got injured, or even this night when Conley missed those three consecutive free throws (more on that and his reaction in a moment), it would have been easy to see the Grizzlies losing out and missing the playoffs.In the first half this night, ZBo went 8-13 but the rest of the starters went 4-14. Miller was 5-6, the rest of the bench was 1-4. Not great balance, but when it came down to the end, the experience of Gasol, Miller, Randolph, Conley, and Allen pushed the Grizzlies back from the precipice and into the playoffs, albeit through a side entrance compared to what many thought back in October.
It’s playoff time, Grizzlies fans.