Well, we knew the Suns had been, apologies in advance, on fire-especially when one compares performance to preseason expectations.
So much to say about this game, but I’ll just pick my (un?)favorite seven things….
Thing one: Three point defense. Gerald Green. Was Jerry West just eight years ahead of the rest of us knowing that GG would blossom into a legit NBA wing and not just a guy who can blow out a candle stationed on the back of the rim? Could Tony Allen rein himself in a bit on the perimeter? Well, as it turned out, the Grindfather didn’t get all that much run, as his scoring wasn’t on, and in the first half, the team did better when he was off the floor (end of Q3 TA was -18). Overall, the Grizzlies held the Suns to 8-30 from the arc, and that’ll do just fine.
Thing two: Zach Randolph. The Suns are not a team who will be renowned for their inside defense, and this would make a great game for another classic ZBo night. Plumlee really hustled on the boards (gotta love his nothing-to-lose youthful exuberance), but ZBo got in there and did his dirty work to the tune of 20 and 10 (albeit on 20 shots) and really helped the team rectify an early deficit on the glass. Boy did they rectify it-the final rebounding tally was 59-40 (!!??!?!?).
Thing three: Could “Atlas” Conley keep carrying the team on his back? Dragic is the kind of guy who makes life difficult for MC11-long, tough, and pretty quick for his size…and a guy who can push Conley on the defensive end. And push he did in that putrid third quarter. He’s tall, he’s long, and he’s got that toughness gene. Like Allen, Prince, and to a degree Koufos, Conley deferred to the bench this night for the team’s best stretches. Conley is undoubtedly fatigued beyond belief, and it’s only January, so it’s a goooood thing that Bayless (more on him in a second) came on in the fourth.
Thing four: JAMES JOHNSON!!!! JAMES JOHNSON!!!!! IT IS NOT POSSIBLE TO DISCUSS THIS MAN USING LOWER-CASE LETTERS! Another block of a three pointer and some silly fouls. The pattern emerges.
Thing five: Generating good shots, and not just because of Conley. Can this happen? It did this night. Bayless has officially earned “streaky” as a descriptive term. He was a streak of Arizonan plasma in that fourth quarter, and it garnered the team a great road win against a team who’s been hot. Honorable mention to Mike Miller-he made smart decisions with the ball when he had it, and had anonymously helpful Mike Miller games-11/7/4 with zero turnovers and a team-leading plus-24 for the game.
Thing six: Getting to the line and keeping the opponent off it. This isn’t about officiating (although any homer should complain about officials from time to time, and I’m certainly “any homer”). This is about execution and hitting spots on both ends. The Grizzlies gave up two more FTA’s and one more FT made, and with as chippy as the game got in the second half, ya gotta take that tally and run with it on the road.
Thing seven: Victory or defeat? VICTORY. No matter how you get there. *insert hackneyed Al Davis quote here*. The Grizzlies are gonna have a tough time in Denver, ‘cuz the Nuggets (is the team gonna change its now-oh-so-ironic name now?) are going to see the Grizzlies on a back to back and think “this is how we get back on our feet”.
Great win against a team who has wildly exceeded expectations. Great start to the road trip.
All’s right in Grizzliesworld..for about 22 hours.