This game was a tale of two teams, two players, and two standards for officiating.
Oh, I’m not going to harp on the officials, but plenty of others took note of it, too.
I hate the officiating, but I also know this is just how the refs call Thunder games. It’s just a fact of life.
— Hardwood Paroxysm (@HPbasketball) January 15, 2014
The first half was an interesting contrast in effective play. In the first quarter, the Grizzlies could seemingly do not wrong. They were forcing turnovers, moving the ball on offense, and Courtney Lee was busy playing the part of Supernova, tallying 14 points in the opening stanza while flying around the court in an effort to seemingly be everywhere at once. Almost as important as that was the presence of WENDIGO. That’s right, Marc Gasol made his much-anticipated return to the lineup tonight — and was on the receiving end of a thunderous ovation (see what I did there?). Although Gasol missed his first shot, he displayed the nifty footwork and passing that we’ve come to expect from Big Spain, leading fans in both the FedExForum and watching at home to swoon in admiration.
The second quarter was another story altogether, as Kevin Durant and Co. went to the free throw line again and again as the reward for going to the rim often. They shot 9 free throws in that frame, which is one more than the Grizzlies shot in the entire first half. Memphis’s big three of Conley, Gasol, and Randolph kept them afloat through the storm, but the Grizzlies found themselves on the wrong end of a 12-point turnaround as they went from being up 8 in the first quarter to down 47-43 at the half.
The team stayed in the locker room almost until the second half started, so one can only assume that Coach Joerger and his staff explained that the home team was getting beaten because they failed to adapt to the style of play and weren’t forcing the refs to make calls on their behalf. Too many jumpshots let the Thunder off the hook for the most part. While Durant continued to get calls just for being looked at, the Grizzlies became more aggressive and started going to the charity stripe themselves for a change. This led to a 9-point third quarter win for Memphis, including a clutch bucket at the buzzer by man of the hour, Courtney Lee.
I want to take a minute to tell fans that if you want another OKC player to watch out for, it’s Steven Adams. He’s a solid defender with solid rebounding skills and a solid work ethic. Did I mentions he’s solid? Like an oak tree, in fact. Kid sets picks like a block wall. If Scott Brooks ever figures out to play him and Collison instead of ever letting Perk see the floor, the rest of the league is probably in trouble. Seriously — Brooks might be one of the worst coaches to every garner a Coach of the Year award.
The final stanza opened up with James Johnson (Dr. JJ, Kid Dynomite) doing all of the things we love to see him do, including putbacks, great defensive plays, and just being an all-around influence on the game. Mike Conley was gassed in the 4th, but managed to keep it together long enough to lead Memphis to a win, assisted by Gasol, ZBo, and Lee.
A few odds and ends. Lots of folks on Twitter were chirping about whether or not it was okay to boo the home team — even if it is just one player. I’ve said before in print and on the radio that I’m not a fan of booing individual players, but I’m fine with booing poor overall play or effort when it is warranted. Regarding Nick Calathes — yes, his play has been lacking lately, but I might point out that in the 9 minutes he played tonight, they were only outscored by 5 points. In the 11 minutes that Mike Miller played, the team was outscored by 17 points. That’s right one seven, 17. Perhaps the fans should find a new whipping boy, eh? Calathes hasn’t played well, but it isn’t like he isn’t trying — and booing him isn’t going to help either. There will likely be a new backup PG on the team in the very near future.
It was great to see Marc’s return to the court, although I felt my heart rate rise when he started limping late in the game. While we’d all like to see him rest tomorrow night against the hapless Bucks, it isn’t likely to happen, so we might as well stop holding our breath waiting on it to occur. Let’s just hope that the coaching staff is able to limit his minutes.
While I didn’t agree with Brevin Knight that the Grizzlies should have fouled when up by 4 at the end of the game in order to prevent Serge Ibaka’s three-pointer that made it a one-point game, I do think that ZBo should have been sitting down in favor of James Johnson, who has shown himself capable of guarding stretch-4s with his impressive showing against Paul Millsap on Sunday.