Ok, that’s it, that’s,uh, all I have to say.
Actually, of course, it’s not.
Were I not wont to be more verbose, those words would do just fine, though, wouldn’t they?
Let’s look at seven reasons the Grizzlies were able to take a HUGE win in OKC under a very bright spotlight.Thing one: Did we yet discuss Tony Allen? That contract that looked terrible and untradeable and all those other things that last time he overdosed us all on tricks and didn’t pass out enough treats suddenly is no longer a factor. Ah, the sine wave of the NBA. To watch Tony Allen have the pure guts to front KD in the mid-post while giving up at least six inches of height to the best scorer in the NBA is pure joy no matter how a particular play might turn. Sure, Allen’s numbers were great-3-4 FG’s, 8 boards (with every one of them seeming more important than the last) , four steals, etc…but his impact, as always, went far beyond the numbers.
Thing two: 21 of 24 from the line. Sure, those three misses were at horrendously inopportune times (two by Conley at the end of regulation, one by ZBo in OT), but 87.5% is a “take it and run with it” number for the Grizzlies, especially after the way the last few weeks have gone from the FT line.
Thing three: Yes, the officiating was…questionable…from time to time in this game. But just like in game one, the fouls whistled (OKC 22 MEM 20) and FT’s attempted (OKC 25 MEM 24) were far too even to constitute a game-swinging fulcrum. Subjective no-calls? If those were able to be counted, well, never mind…but the numbers bore out an evenness that makes it hard for either team to blame either game on the zebras.
Thing four: Yes, ZBo, Gasol, and TA are all of vital import to the Grizzlies-but it’s Conley’s team, and they go as he goes. Yes, he had a good game in game one and the team couldn’t get over the victory hump-but 19/7/12 with only two turns, plus his tireless pursuit of the paint on offense, makes him the focal point. Is it because he’s a fast guy playing on a sometimes-painfully slow team? It’s an interesting thought at least.
Thing five: The first quarter was interesting. The Grizzlies did the regular “forced post entry pass leading to ZBo set shot” thing to a nauseating level but had success with other scoring methods, and OKC made several silly attempts to post up Westbrook on Lee and Sefalosha on Conley. Of course, every game (especially a playoff game) is going to feature a short list of established set plays to see what’s working that night-but adjustments become more important as the series passes. I’d be surprised if the Grizzlies didn’t mix it up a bit more to open the game, especially on the lately-invincible home floor.
Thing six: BENO!!! Despite the high number of disturbingly un-witty puns based upon his name, this guy’s impact on the game cannot be overestimated. 14 points in 14 minutes-that’s some Haddadi-esque per-minute behavior. Aside from one horribly disturbing “threw it to the wrong guy” turnover, it’s hard to find fault with his game (and to his defense, he thought Gasol was already going to have hit his spot down low…but it turned out Old Man Fisher was there instead). The Thunder made the mistake of ignoring him TA-style for a minute or two…but by the time they started paying attention, he was used to the angles his screeners were using and that unorthodox-looking leaner was workin’ hard.
Thing seven: The energy overall. It took that first game being a complete kicking (for the most part, anyway) to wake up the Grizzlies, but it’s done now, and coming home will do nothing to diminish the team’s spirit. Courtney Lee playing through the “tweaked” ankle, ZBo playing through getting the stew beaten out of him, Gasol getting through some uneven spots, Conley taking the ball northward to the hole, Udrih and Davis and Miller coming off the bench to keep the team in a good position, and TA being everywhere at once….we just have to hope that the Grizzlies can replicate this performance, oh, a few more times.
Thursday. The next in the unending string of “biggest game of the year” contests for the Grizzlies.
Win, lose, or draw, this series is going down as another great one.