“Every game is like game seven”. This is one of those “both teams played hard” spoutable cliches one hears incessantly, but it’s true for the Grizzlies. The current four-in-five is pivotal, crucial, essential, etc…and Mike Conley was equal to the challenge.
Y’know..after the first half, I thought “James Johnson would do well in this game”. Lo and behold…
There’s one (actually three, you’ll see what I mean) HUGE thing about this game, and six more we’ll examine a bit…
Thing one: Davis, Ajinca (!?!), and Aminu (!?!). Those are the three, and it was again easy to see the kind of trouble that the Grizzlies have with pogostick frontlines. As they have been wont to do this season in many aspects of the game, however, the Grizzlies took a four-board deficit at the half and wound up +3 for the game. We’d all love faster starts-but coming on strong in the second half is lovely to watch.
Thing two: It’s mighty tough to win when you give up fifteen FTA’s in the first half…and the opponent misses ZERO of them. …but the Grizzlies only gave up seven in the second half. More on that second half in a bit…but the free-throw makes coming out exactly even maybe illustrates how close this game really was.
Thing three: James Johnson, auditioning for the whole NBA. Remember when Chucky Atkins was tried to go nuts after Stoudamire’s injury, and how he’d always make nice-ish with the other team at game’s end (tip o’ cap to old-head 3sob’er Zack for the memory of that)? James Johnson has seen his minutes go away, and now knows that he’s workin’ for a job next season. And he surely did well at it this night. “Make a lot of noise in a short time” is how he operates, and it worked this night. He helped hold the Pelicans to fourteen measly points in Q4, and only came out at the end for the ultra-situational offensive lineup that was required.
Thing four: Gasol and Randolph. 28 and 18 between the two of them, although their games this night were as “muddy” as the rest in terms of efficiency-it took them 25 shots to score those points and they had seven turnovers between them-but they held their own against the pogosticks and helped the Grizzlies to the win.
Thing five: May have mentioned this before, probably more than once-but TA is THRIVING coming off the bench. It fits with his style of play-you’ll often hear a bench player say “it’s good because I get to sense the rhythm of the game and see who is doing what and that lets me know how I need to approach my minutes when I get in the game”, and Allen now gets to see whose water needs to be shut off before he has to expend energy finding out. Joerger can also determine when said water needs to stop flowing and get Allen in there when needed. And thirteen points on eight shots with three steals, only one foul, and one turnover in 25 minutes is just about all one can expect. Great game for TA.
Thing six: Not afraid of using some words on an opponent, especially one like Anthony Davis. It’s silly and premature to compare him to any current or former player, ‘cuz this is going to be a “carve his own niche” kind of player. The insane length and smoothness with the ball (that running hook in the first quarter looked like a young Duncan, don’t deny it) combined with a controlled, high-IQ style is how a star could be made. Gotta stay healthy-can’t wait to watch this guy for years to come.
Thing seven: MIIIIIIKEEE CONLEEEEEEEYYYYYY. And you thought that time when he hesitation-stepped around Shaq at the Forum was the best one you’d see. There have been many since and will be many more-but this one was so, so clutch. His ability to split the screen is vastly underrated…but it’s easy to think that won’t be the case after about forty bazillion highlight-reel runs on the various networks tonight and tomorrow.
Good start to the trip. The Grizzlies are comin’ for you, Kyle Lowry. Get ready.