Ok, the non-call on the backcourt violation was just unconscionably awful. Ok, let’s forget about that from here on out.
Who would have thought that a game played on March 3rd would see the Grizzlies fighting to glimpse a playoff spot and the Wizards eyeing, from a short distance, homecourt advantage? Reverse that scenario, and maybe you get a taker or two. Or three. You get me, anyway.
Not hard to make a guess about how the Grizzlies might go about beating the Wizards, eh? THAT’S MY PAINTED AREA, PUNK!
If you don’t get that reference, well, uh, yeah.
Here we go…Thing one: The task: keep Bradley Beal from looking like Glen Rice and/or Michael Jordan. Worked mostly, but when it didn’t, boy did it hurt the Grizzlies. His hot streak in the second quarter is what likely kept the third quarter run by the Grizzlies from happening sooner, and that last three was excruciating. He went 7/15 for the game and 6/6 from the line, which is a thoroughly competent line-but the Grizzlies did at least make other guys go nuts to make and keep it close.
Thing two: Had Miller not made that three to make it 102-92, Grizz likely lose this game. It was the little bit of glue that kept the “Wall” (get it?) from tumbling down on the Grizzlies momentum-wise. Can’t discount Prince’s three after the late timeout, but MM’s was just huge. Can a seemingly minor 2-for-3 from distance constitute a situation wherein one might say “see, that’s why we signed him”? For this game, yes. A long stretch in the first half after Lee and Allen both caught whistle-itis, and a couple huge threes along the way. The case could easily be made that said late three shouldn’t have been that important, as the Grizzlies did a TERRIBLE job maintaining a lead on the road…but it was that important.
Thing three: Back to the top-”THAT’S MY PAINTED AREA, PUNK” is a slightly modified version of a line from Friday during which a character named…D-Bo…makes claim to property purportedly belonging to another. Yep, all of Randolph’s seven made FG’s came in the paint (a bit disconcerting, as the wing rainbow is usually reasonably reliable), and while Trevor Booker (more on him in a moment) played ZBo the right way, 16 and 10 still appeared magically on the boxscore line for #50. The Grizzlies had 62 (!) in the paint for the game to only 34 for Washington, and that’s how it should have been. There was a stretch where Drew Gooden and Al Harrington were manning the paint for WAS…and I was just waiting for James Posey and Stro to come off the bench for the Grizzlies. Can’t discount Koufos’ performance on defense, either-another example of how the Grizzlies’ brute-force strength and size overcame the Wizards on the interior.
If you’ve never seen Friday, well, maybe it lies outside the lines of your cinematic box, or maybe it’s a bit past what you should see at your young age. But it is awesome.
Thing four: Gasol’s best playmaking game since his return from injury, and not just because of his assist number (8). He moved with the ball, the play where he ran/jump/stopped to make the pass under the goal for the finish standing out as an example. A great feed to Calathes from a SLOB play, and a KILLER over-the-shoulder job to TA for a layup. Yes, the Wizards’ Nene-less-ness helped things inside for the Grizzlies, but it was still nice to see. Is his confidence coming back re: the knee? His twist-and-turn mobility at the elbow seemed better, that’s for sure-and he seemed less hesitant overall.
Thing five: The Wizards seemed prepared for the game, and this was most strongly evidenced by the physicality with which they tried to play, especially in the first half. Booker and Harrington were wrestling with ZBo, and Booker played him in that Spurs-like perfect way-he went for the 3/4 front before the wing player could even consider the post entry, and he kept moving. Not just a standard arms-up front. Got himself a couple fouls for his trouble, but he kept Randolph from going totally nuts. Booker is generally a more competent player than folks think. Andre Miller was doing the same thing to Calathes in the second quarter-trying to throw him off his game in the most literal sense, but Calathes did well. He posted four assists and zero TO’s in his first-half minutes. The Wizards’ aforementioned lack of interior depth and strength just wasn’t enough to stop the Grizzlies’ paint attack over the course of the game, however.
Thing six: With the foul trouble to Lee and Allen (loved Allen gesturing “no don’t take me out” to the bench after he was whistled for his second), thought we might get our first Udrih sighting, as he can play off the ball but Joerger went with Miller for a long stretch in the second quarter. Can’t blame him-while Udrih will prove his competence at some point, the opening game of an unimaginably vital road trip isn’t the time for an unknown quantity.
Thing seven: Now, there’s no way you thought we weren’t gonna talk about Tayshaun Prince, did you? All of us who have cast more aspersions at Prince than Bill Dance has cast spinnerbaits at largemouth bass will gladly look like dummies for tonight. It does, though, just go to show that when he doesn’t/can’t hit perimeter shots, his worth drops precipitously. 21 on 11 shots and zero fouls in 30 minutes of game time. That’s more like it. Sometimes even accomplished veterans need a confidence-builder.
Can’t be overstated how big this win was-the Wizards had won six in a row coming into the game, and the Grizzlies’ margin grows ever slimmer.
On to New York for the Grizzlies now. Gotta keep it going.