Well, that started off with a bang, didn’t it? Whoof.
Now, that being said, every single one of us would be looking past any and all obstacles to that all-star break. And the Grizzlies sure seemed to be doing just that for the first eight or so minutes of the game.
Luckily, the Hawks decided not to hit every single shot for the duration of the evening.
The Grizzlies’, ahem, “defense” to start the game deserves the opening spot in the rundown of seven things about the latest Grizzlies/ Hawks “game for the ages”…..Thing one: That defense to start the game. Sure, the fabled “string” upon which great defenses ride was frayed at the ends. However, the lethal cocktail of NBA game characteristics was present-sloppy, uncoordinated defense combined with a team that just could not miss. Like, Krakatoa-hot shooting from the Hawks. The entry of James Johnson and…Darius Morris (?) into the game demonstrated the “defense creates offense” cliche as well as I’ve seen in a while. Morris on Teague and Johnson on DeMarre “I’ll show you” Carroll helped to stem the tide of Atlanta offense. More on the defense later, as it is warranted.
Thing two: Budenholzer, I’d like to thank you personally on behalf of all NBA fans for calling that timeout at the 4:55 mark of the second. The stretch preceding that was almost enough to make me lose my Five Guys dinner (stop with the tomatoes, we have a five-year-old and he was up for a “kid’s choice” treat-Daddy would much rather have hit the Belmont). The Grizzlies were not lacking in effort, with Johnson, Davis, Koufos, and the rest all giving great effort, but nothing would fall and it didn’t look pretty not falling. Matter of fact, this game sorta reminded me of a nice Spurs/Grizzlies contest. I’ll figure out why, just gimme a minute….
Thing three: Mr. Conley, paging Mr. Conley. Get that ankle workin’, man. You are needed in MOST desperate fashion.
Thing four: As much as ZBo kept the team from totally listing and taking on fatal amounts of water in the first quarter, Paul Millsap ate Randolph’s lunch in the second. ZBo scored but a couple of points and Millsap’s shots made great friends with the bottom of the net. Then, in the third, the Hawks picked up the doubling and tripling of ZBo, but Randolph still managed a 20-point night.
Thing five: Nick Calathes has fallen into the Tony Allen trap. No one guards him. With good movement in the paint, this can lead to excellent passes (of which he is fully and insanely capable), but teams are letting him shoot and for tonight, the result was not kind. He’ll only get better at shooting by living through (and, I’ll selfishly say, making us live through) nights like this one. A rough, regressive game for him all the way around really-one is forced to toot the “but the awesome assists” horn very loudly to spin to the positive, but he gets an honorable mention for the late-game scoring. Maybe more important than the scoring itself was the fact that he wasn’t scared to try.
Thing six: Marc Gasol wasn’t *all* that far from notching a triple-double. A good recovery game for him, and perhaps most importantly, a game where he had the ball in his hands A LOT. Like, a really lot. Seven assists to only one turnover. Ayon and the rest of the Hawks’ defense perhaps paid more attention to ZBo than was warranted…but…it’s a pick-y0ur-poison situation. That’s how the Grizzlies win.
Thing seven: Good old happy old energy. That’s how the Grizzlies amassed fourteen steals and five blocks on the way to holding the Hawks under 80. Transition defense was good, with Morris, Randolph, and Johnson of course all having good moments hustling back. Yes, the Hawks got 18 fast break points-but didn’t it seem that it could have been more like thirty had the Grizzlies not worked at getting back?
Ok. Number eight. There’s just no way the free throw thing escapes mention. However, this isn’t going to be a diatribe against Mott, Zielinski, and Poole. I’ll just say that I did NOT find myself yelling at the TV or wondering HOW IS THAT NOT A FOUL much. If one looks at the total foul count, the Grizzlies were only two fouls on the bad side-12 to 10. I’m quite sure that Randolph, Gasol, and the rest might be tempted to make a remark or two about the officiating to some fencepost somewhere, but it just didn’t seem all that lopsided.
Grizzlies are on the plane to Cleveland for a Sunday evening engagement. There is a word that Admiral Ackbar would use to describe tomorrow’s game with the Cavaliers, and we all know what it is…