Well, that’s one way to start a road trip-to pit your newly-refound defense against the infinity-octane Blazers offense. Unstoppable
There are tons of interesting games over the course of an NBA season for a given team, but this one rises above pretty much any the Grizzlies have played thus far.
There are tons of things to discuss regarding said game, but it’s late, let’s keep it to seven….Thing one: Conley v. Lillard, in the “high court” of point guards. Who would have thought, back during the Iavaroni Dark Time, that “Shrinking Violet” Conley would have taken this matchup challenge so personally? No you wouldn’t have, stop lyin’. On this night, Conley turned Lillard into the Shrinking Violet. ZERO free throws for Lillard, and only 3 ast to go with a matching number of turnovers. If you’re not wowed by Conley’s season thus far, you’re not watching. Conley did well only holding the ball just long enough on most possessions, even when the Blazers put Rudy-Gay-sized Nicolas Batum on him and the physical overplay against Conley got nutty.
Thing two: Gasol, ZBo, and the rest try to contain Aldridge, who WAS ONCE TRADED FOR TYRUS THOMAS SO MUCH LAUGHTER. Ok, got that out of my system. They did it for the most part after the first quarter, with LMA sitting out just over nine minutes of game time total over the course of the evening. Putting ZBo on Lonely Island trying to guard Aldridge in the first quarter was not pretty to watch, as LMA’s length let him get off jumper after jumper. His allergy to paint is likely what saved the Grizzlies an Advil or two this night.
Thing three: The Grizzlies’ bench did a wonderful job at the end of the first quarter, with Calathes playing steadily and not trying to push his envelope. For the game, he went 1-5 from the field, but had four assists and ZERO turnovers-that means none of those “hey who was supposed to be right there” passes, and better poise. James Johnson provided his trademark energy, but he started to go a bit far outside the box, and Joerger wisely limited him later in the game. Kosta Koufos had a high-peak low-valley effort, matching several great defensive plays with some boneheaded decisions. Eleven minutes seemed about right for him tonight.
Thing four: The three-pointer. This game as much as any the Grizz have played this season demonstrates just how important the long-range shot is in today’s NBA. The Blazers went 0-fer in the first half on eight attempts, and that was a big reason the Grizzlies enjoyed a 15-point halftime advantage. The Grizzlies went 6/13 with Mike Miller not missing on any of his three attempts, and the (im-?)potent Blazers went 4/24 from long range. The Blazers got some open looks, even in that first half-but even with the expected “barrage” of makes at the end of the game as the home team tried to throw everything into a comeback, the Grizzlies’ defense stifled the Blazers.
Thing five: Rebounding…the Grizzlies were plus-6 for the game, but failed to reach double-digit offensive boards, and only three Grizzlies even plucked one from the offensive glass. This was one aspect of the Blazers’ game plan that certainly succeeded, but…
Thing six: ….transition D. When you sacrifice a bit on the offensive glass, you can get back on D more quickly. Duh. And the Grizzlies did so, to the tune of only giving up 2 fast break points to the Blazers.
Thing seven: Victory achieved through defense. The Blazers were held just under 35 percent, and really showed no offensive prowess outside of LMA’s mini-nuke event in the first quarter and a brief mixed period of threes and FT’s as they tried unsuccessfully to stage a mighty comeback in the fourth. Gasol and company did a great job backing up Conley and the guards as they diverted Lillard from his range of desired destinations, and Tayshaun Prince had one of his better games against Batum. Stifling. That’s the word for which we’re all searching.
Win of the season thus far? When taken in context (i.e. letdown possible after two big weekend wins, first game of tough road trip, etc.), it’s certainly the biggest of the campaign. On to Sacramento….