Whoof. Tough road trip. Aren’t they all, but none of these three games constituted the proverbial walk in the public recreation area.
Seven things, and tonight it’ll be seven words.
It’d be easy to use George Carlin’s famous seven words to describe the Toronto game, but this is a family site. We’ll not be doing that.
Here we go…
Word one: Vulnerability. In the game against the Raptors, the Grizzlies fell into an old vulnerability-giving up too many threes. Sure, maybe the Raps were just hot-but 9-for-17 is at the north end of hot. Part of it was just the Kyle Factor (more on him in a moment), and part of it was just improperly executed defense. In the Sixers game, the Grizzlies were, in the first half anyway, vulnerable into getting sucked into the Sixers’ “anti-mud slop game”, i.e. nasty spacing with passes right into those “un-spaced” passing lanes leading to way too many turnovers. To be ready for the playoffs, should the Grizzlies reach them, the team has to again find its roots in its style. Be enough of a chameleon to stay in any game, but do not abandon the mode of play that has gotten the team this far.
Word two: Resignation. Ok, ok, I’m ready to stop the bellyaching about how Kyle Lowry just pulls every trick out of his pugilistic little bag when he plays the Grizzlies. We’re not gonna talk about the “locked room” full of point guards. Kyle Lowry is just a great player, and he’s been one. He’s come a long way from that opening-night triple-ot loss to the Knicks in the fall of ’06 (now is when I castigate Mike Miller ONCE AGAIN for missing those free throws that night), and has worked on his skillset while not losing any of that bulldog persona. 22 and 12 with seven boards is yet another killer line for Lowry against the Grizzlies, and he did it the way he does it-dogged defense on one end and an ever-more-potent mix of outside shooting and lane penetration on the other.
Word three: Blowout. It was about time for one, and the Sixers game needed to be one to re-establish confidence among the team after a too-darn-close victory over the Pelicans and an absolutely demoralizing loss at Toronto. Holding the Sixers to 77 points on 37% shooting is not exactly a Herculean exercise, but after giving up a hundred the previous night a few hundred miles away, the team needed to show itself that it still has defensive teeth.
Word four: Defense. Speaking of defensive teeth, it’s interesting to watch the Sixers play defense. The Bruce-Bowen-y way they have of crowding guys, giving up FT’s, and playing toward a goal of total world basketball havoc is actually sorta entertaining, and once they have Nerlens Noel back by the basket erasing all the discordant mistakes, it could actually work. Is Brett Brown prescient enough to be making this plan, or is he just trying to make the best of the athleticism on the roster?
Word five: Gasol. He drew TONS of attention at Toronto and in Philly, and neither game will be counted among his season’s best, but that’s ok-he had six assists, three steals, and two blocks against the Sixers to counteract the five turnovers he committed. See word four above-the timing of the help D on Gasol and the rest of the Grizzlies was actually not bad, although the rotations after doubling were a bit bad.
Word six: Bench. 36 points from the reserves out of 86 total against the Raptors, and 46 of 103 total against the Sixers. Not only are those nice absolute numbers, they’re also just lovely as far as % of total points scored goes. Interestingly high number of minutes for Ed Davis vs. Philly, likely in light of the non-bulky athletic guys they trot out to man the middle-and he produced. Eleven boards in nineteen minutes. Let’s see, per-36 that’d be…lemme see here…right at 20. Not so awful. Love to see guys like him and Leuer and James Johnson fighting to show they deserve those coveted-yet-limited bench minutes as the regular season winds down.
Word seven: Conley. He’s the barometer. He’s the determinant. He’s the head honcho numero uno for the Grizzlies. The team can survive without him for short stretches, and Calathes has come along nicely-but Conley as orchestrator on offense and as first line of, well, defense on the other end is how this team goes. 4/12 against Toronto and only two trips to the line, team loses. 5/9 with eight trips to the line against the Sixers, team wins the stretch of the game where he played in a landslide. No, the Sixers do not have Lowry-but they have Michael Carter-Williams, who is long enough and quick enough to give Conley trouble. And he did.
Interesting stuff-can the team keep its defensive composure and not get sucked into the other team’s (whoever that may be) style of play as the playoffs approach?