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Once again, not a perfect game-but are any of them perfect? No, the Miami win was not even perfect. Wonderful, but not perfect.

This game was full of imperfections-but one thing happened perfectly, and it didn’t even happen on the court. At this time, I’m not even sure it happened at all.

But I can make a guess…

This “thing” happened, I would surmise, in the Griz’ locker room at halftime. It involved a discussion of the words “defense”, “physicality”, and “rebounding”, Lionel Hollins’ foot, and an anatomical part of the Grizzlies players.

The technical fouls garnered by the Suns (can’t remember the last time the Griz goaded a team into three techs) were a great way to celebrate NBA Tech Week, eh? HAHAHA. Whoof, that was rough.

It does say a lot, though, that the Grizzlies have been getting (almost literally) under opponents’ skin on D when it matters.

Just as important as the second-half defensive mini-transformation, though, were my patented “couple of things”:

-Quincy Pondexter and Dante Cunningham. Sorta nobody guys…former co-blogger Zack had Pondexter confused with Quincy Douby (aka “poor man’s Juan Dixon”, shudder), and Dante Cunningham showed flashes as a Blazer, but was just sorta hangin’ out…the fact that the Grizzlies have become a place for guys to resurrect a career (ZBo, duh) or find a role where they can thrive (DC/QP/Speights/maybe GA) says as much about the culture change surrounding the team as it does about the team’s actual performance from game to game. The fact that Gay/ZBo/Conley/OJ were willing to get Dante the ball repeatedly so late in such a close game was huge. The “front of the jersey is the letters that matter” cliche is front and center these days for the Grizzlies, and that’s wonderful to see for a team supposedly filled with fragile egos.

-Rudy Gay had a big game. He got burned by, uh, well, uh, Josh Childress a time or two, but he played 42 minutes with only two fouls, and, most importantly, had ZERO turnovers. Oh, also, he was the Grizzlies’ first 30-point scorer of the season with a crazy 13-20 from the field with 6-6 FT’s. See how that scoring number was last on the superlatives list? That’s ‘cuz that’s the one that matters least. Surest sign that Rudy is finally out of his own head is that he’s not rushing and panicking is that he finally had a game where he took 20 shots, and didn’t make a silly pass, commit a charge, or lose the ball out of bounds.

-Tied to the defensive issues was a rebounding issue, and the Grizzlies wound up a plus-twelve on the glass after giving up about 952 offensive rebounds to start the game. Part personnel, part positioning. Zach Randolph with a nice 9-board showing in under 27 minutes, and the starting frontcourt of Gay/Speights/Gasol all had at least 7 boards. Team effort, again.

-Conley with 7 assists and ZERO turnovers. Ho-hum. Nash did well, but Conley and the rest of the Griz’ defense hassled (a more perfect word I could not find) him into seven turnovers, including a sequence where Conley chased him around like a puppy chasing a three-year-old, finally getting the steal and frustrating the level-headed Nash into a tech.

It would almost be easy to think that the Grizzlies are peaking earlier than they should, but they’re still a reasonably young team. There is also an unheralded perfect storm-Rudy coming on form at the right time, ZBo getting a percentage point or two back every day (without having too many miles on the engine for this season), and the bench coming to life are all great things-but when one adds in that the emphasis on Rudy/ZBo/bench allows Marc Gasol and Mike Conley to enjoy a little time out of the center of the spotlight, it’s just as easy to think that the Grizzlies could be as well-positioned for playoff success as they’ve ever been.

Yes, I have allowed myself to envision a parade on Beale Street…a partial pipedream, perhaps, but one not as farfetched as it once seemed…


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5 Responses to Ursus Horribilis In Ascension; Suns Go Down

  1. Joel B.No Gravatar says:

    a championship on Beale would be insane, it would last 35 seconds and all of that would be insanity. maybe we could make it a Poplar ave parade? man i cant wait to see how our Grizz do in the playoffs this year, there honestly is no team that the Grizz cant handle, OKC is the closest thing to it in my opinion, and that would be a great series, we could redeem the loss of last years OKC series

  2. AussieGNo Gravatar says:

    Peaking too early.. interesting thought.. I guess these things are best back looked on with hindsight.. maybe they are yet to peak and still have alot of improvement left? Maybe they won’t win another game? Maybe maybe maybe etc etc.

    Would much rather them peak now than not at all though, if you wanted to pick a month to play your best basketball of the regular season, April is definately the right time. And no major injuries.. *touch wood*

    To the post above, OKC is a scary team, scariest in the west IMO.

  3. PatrickNo Gravatar says:

    Lovin the Grizz right now. We have all the talent and cohesiveness in the world, it has just been a matter of us getting it all together at once. I think it’s happening now. There’s not a tougher team out there. Bodes well for a 7 game series, don’t you think?

  4. TonyNo Gravatar says:

    1 snarky thought before the positives: I don’t think anybody’s going to come on here today saying that Gilbert should be our crunch-time PG over Conley.

    Even though the result was what it should have been when you look at it standing-wise – a double digit win at home over the 10th seed in your conference – I was still really, really happy with the win tonight. The Suns have a way of getting under our skin and Gasol really, really struggles with Gortat. This was exactly the kind of game where we needed someone to step up and take over, and Rudy did exactly that. Kudos to him, and kudos to Juice for continuing to make big shots for us.

    The only thing holding back my excitement was the LA teams somehow beating the alleged 2 best teams in the league on the road, prohibiting any upward movement through the standings.

    Keep it up Grizz.

  5. boNo Gravatar says:

    clippers worry me more than okc cause we are likely to see clipps before we would see okc in playoffs…
    but we are obviously playing the best ball in he entire nba right now….
    and espn basically gives a 15 sec summary or how our opponents lost to us…………

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