The letdown. The hangover. The trap, the schedule loss, the blahblahblah.
Playoff-hopeful teams don’t allow cliches like the above even enter their minds.
Let’s knock out seven things about this middle game of a short and nasty road trip…Thing one: It’s about time Marc Gasol had the proverbial breakout game. Not that he hasn’t contributed wonderfully, but we all want to see the Yeti in full bloom. As the game got going, it looked like he might have such a game-but the bench played a lot, and pretty well, in the second quarter, and tired legs caught up with him in the second half. No way Aaron Gray should even APPEAR to outwork Big Spain, but it seemed to be happening. His knee has got to be bugging him-flying can’t be good for it, and oh, also, getting shoved around for a couple hours a day isn’t either. The perimeter guys are playing loose and free on D like Marc’s 100%, and it’s not working out entirely well, especially on the back end of a travel B2B.
Thing two: Mike Conley against a sneaky just-as-tough matchup in Isaiah Thomas. Quick v. quick. Thomas got his work done, and exposed Conley’s fatigue in stretches, but Conley went for 20 in the second half and wound up with the double-double on the night. Watching him probe the vulnerable SAC defense under the goal was pretty to watch…but watching Thomas get by him using subpar screens through which Conley could normally breeze wasn’t quite as pretty.
Thing three: Tayshaun Prince v. Rudy Gay. Whoof, this was ugly. Did Rudy blame the Grizzlies for his winding up in SAC or something? Gay lit up anyone who tried to guard him, with several of those spider-armed rise-up elbow jumpers, a breakaway dunk, etc…it would stand to reason that Prince would show the effects of a hard travel B2B as much as any Grizzly, but boy, he didn’t look good.
AND THEN CAME THE END OF THE FOURTH QUARTER. Tayshaun Prince picked himself up off the mat and made a couple HUUUGE plays on both ends. Well shut my mouth. If Tayshaun Prince were an MLB pitcher, he’d be known as “crafty”. “Crafty” means “can’t throw the dang ball more than 40 MPH anymore, but can place a pitch or two in the right place every once in a while to get the team to a win”.
Thing four: Courtney Lee finally had an anonymous game, and that’s ok-since Marcus Thornton, a man who has slain grizzly bears in the past, went a staggering 1-2 from the field in 17 riveting minutes, largely due to Lee’s draping himself on him to start the game. It can’t be overstated that keeping Thornton from routinely getting either into the lane or wide open on the perimeter
Thing five: Ol’ steady ZBo. He didn’t get the full Lawler-takes-down-strap look on his face, but it was easy to see that he grew rather fatigued over being bounced around like the proverbial BB in the proverbial boxcar under the goal and racked up 18 on sixteen shots to go with seven boards and and a four steals, one of which led to another beautiful ZBo fast break the steps of which were so lovingly executed as to make the Bolshoi jealous.
Thing six: Marcus Thornton, Travis Outlaw,Carl Landry, etc…these are the no-namers (to non-NBA junkies, anyway) that seem to cause the Grizzlies infinite trouble despite relative anonymity. With Cousins and Gay both hobbled by recent injuries, this was even more of a concern. And it didn’t happen. The Kings aside from Gay and Thomas went 18/42, just under 43% for the game, which means the Grizzlies didn’t let some CJ Miles-esque person light up the scoreboard and the crowd. Landry had a moment or two, and Fredette had a moment or two, but no Kings player aside from the known-quantity top two guys made a real dent in the Grizzlies’ D.
Thing seven: Victory as a result of defense, once again. Holding another team under 90 points, and another offensively potent team at that. Good defense from Calathes (we’ll not speak of that choked play at the end of the first half) to go with some good PG work. A bit of a disconcerting effort, but rolling over the Blazers the night before could empty the tank of the most dedicated NBA baller. Nice to see that the Grizzlies can win with the machine basically idling.
Can’t idle the machine Friday at Minnesota-the Wolves can see the standings, and they know what they have to do. Sleep on the plane, sleep all day tomorrow, Mr. Conley. Your number is up again Friday night.