Whereas 40 minutes, 22 points (8-12FG, 4-5 3PT, 2-3 FT), 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal, 0 turns in a Memphis Grizzlies (26-20) 99-90 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks (8-39),
Whereas a cross court pass to Courtney Lee for a corner three as the half expired gave him his first assist on the night,
Whereas 17,017 raucous fans in FedexForum leapt to their feet upon his 4th three pointer of the night with 3:41 left in the 4th qtr put the Grizzlies up 12 and sealed the come from behind victory
I declare that this day, February 1st, 2014, in the city of Grizzville, shall now and forever more be known as Nick Calathes Day.
Yep. It was that kind of night. I’m almost speechless (yea, right). Nick Calathes, on his first NBA start EVER, replacing Mike Conley (suffering from a grade 2 sprain and is listed as day-to-day) as the starting point guard, had the game of his life. When Milwaukee backed off of him, he took the shot and nailed it. When they played him tight, he rolled off screens, cut to the basket and got easy buckets. Who cares if it was the Bucks? This is the NBA. Everyone is good. Nick Calathes took his opportunity, relaxed, and proved tonight that he has the ability and talent to compete on the highest level. Not just offensively, but defensively too.
Calathes was tasked with defending Brandon Knight (apparently he was raised from the dead in Milwuakee, Remember this?) and at times Nate Wolters. For the first three and two thirds quarters, Brandon Knight was held to 14 points, only 4 of them came while Calathes was guarding him. 10 of those points came while Calathes was on the bench and the final third of the 4th quarter Knight collected garbage points. Nate Wolters only made one jumpshot (that I observed) while Calathes was defending him. He played exceptional tonight.
Mike Conley is out for at least 4 more games (Mon- @OKC, Wed- DAL, Thurs- @CLE, Sat- @ATL). Nick Calathes showed us he can produce. However, he faces a much more formidable opponent Monday night in OKC and Reggie Jackson (no offense Brandon Knight). I’m counting that game as a loss, but if Calathes can have close to as good a game as he had tonight in handling the ball (zero turnovers), the Grizzlies have a good shot at making some noise in OKC and walking out of there with a win.
The rest of tonight’s game seems meaningless to most fans; and there really was one storyline tonight, and it was Nick Calathes.
However, there were also other notables that should be pointed out:
1) Jon Leuer-delivery man. After only playing 10 min in three games since Marc Gasol’s return, Leuer has been patiently waiting for his name to be called. Leuer got the call in the 3rd quarter and immediately impacted the game. Though he had a modest stat line, only 8 points and 5 boards in 18min, he did so many little things that aren’t quantified, like boxing out his man under the basket, closing out on defenders, stretching the floor to create space for ZBO or Marc. No matter if he plays 2 minutes or 20 minutes, when his name is called, it seems you can count on Jon Leuer to give you solid play. Leuer was +21 tonight, too, leading all Grizzlies players in +/-.
2) Marc Gasol’s jumper. Yes it’s the Bucks. They are awful. We all know this. However, Marc Gasol’s set shot jumper is a thing of beauty and tonight, we were blessed to witness it multiple times. Gasol kept the Grizzlies in the game for the beginning of the third quarter. Going 9-15 from the field (though 1-4 from the FT line) Marc gave Larry Sanders and the Bucks all they could handle finishing with 19 points, 6 boards and 2 blocks. Marc was more aggressive offensively because he knew that someone needed to step up and hit shots with Conley out. Marc kept us there for much of the 3rd quarter, until we made a run towards the end of the 3rd and into the 4th.
3) ZBO- “first name twenty, last name ten” Because of Calathes’s monster effort, not many paid much attention to ZBO’s 23 points, on 19 shots, and 10 boards. Yet, there he was again. The Grizzlies went on a 23-7 run with 3:00 min left in the 3rd quarter, that gave the Grizzlies a 76-71 lead with 9:32 left in the 4th. Over that span, ZBO had 8 of those 23 points. He kept driving Ilyasova to the rim and scoring. ZBO could not be tamed.
4) James Johnson- 2 steps forward, 1 step back Johnson just stuffs the stat sheets: 14 points, 4 rebounds (all offensive), 2 assists, 2 turns, 2 blocks. For every one bad game Dr JJ has, he has two or maybe three good games that make you forget the bad one. Bottom Line: He produces. Tonight, he kept driving to the basket. He knew the Bucks couldn’t stop him at the rim, and he would not be denied. He was 4/5 at the rim tonight, oh and yet another blocked three point attempt. #LunchMoney
5) Coach Joerger – The Comeback Kid Not too long ago, the Grizzlies had a record of 10-15. Fans stopped going to games. Radio callers were calling for Coach Joerger to be fired. Multiple people, even some of us here at 3SOB were realistically considering joining “the tank” talk. People had stopped believing. The “Greater Memphis” slogan had become a laughing stock. However, some 21 games later, the Grizzles are now 26-20, on a NBA best 6 game win streak, won 10 of their last 11, having gone 16-5 in those games. The defense is reeling. The offense is moving the ball. The front office has made some really great personnel moves and Coach Joerger has adjusted on the fly to get whatever roster of guys he has available to play hard every game. What he did in the month of January is nothing short of remarkable. This team had injured players, players coming in and out via trade, different rotations most nights, but Joerger managed to get them to play together. No it wasn’t pretty at times. However, he got the job done. The Grit and Grind has now returned, and brought back our fans with it. He deserves credit. The players respect him. It’s a long way from where we were on December 18th. He deserves the NBA Coach of the Month for January.
Well, rest up Grizz Fam. Our Grizzlies return to the FedexForum for a divisional battle when the Dallas Mavericks come to town Wednesday night. I don’t think I need to explain the importance of that game. Between now and then, let’s go play our hearts out in Oklahoma City and see if we can’t snatch a victory. Go Grizz.