It’s interesting to watch any NBA team, no matter whether the team in question is on the way up (Wolves if healthy) on the way down (sorry, Celtics, it’s happening), a perennial contender (Tim Duncan et. al.), or seemingly interminably stuck in lottery purgatory (this night’s opponent).
However, interesting qualities of the other team be darned, it’s a near-necessity for the Grizzlies to run the table on the regular season to secure home court in the first round of the playoffs, and a good effort against a young team with NOTHING to lose is what they had to put out.
Did it happen? You know the lucky number…seven things:
Thing one: Defense. It’s coming around. Let’s don’t make too much of holding the struggling Bobcats to 75 total points on 37.5% shooting, but…who was the last team to score over 90 against the Grizzlies? Houston, seven games ago (and the Grizzlies won that one 103-94). Since the mega-stumble road trip to the northeast at WAS and NYK, the Grizzlies have restored their defense to its elite level.
Thing two: Conley keeps on keepin’ on. He’s hit his stride at the right time. We hope. As I’ve warned before, we have to pray he’s not peaking early and running the gas out of the tank…but heck, he’s only in his sixth season and came into the NBA at 19. He’ll be fine. His “seam finding” ability has always been good, even back to the days when Iavaroni was misguiding him..but there is something else to it. Timing and positioning of the big men in and near the lane seemed like it started to improve..when was it…right about the end of January, I think? What, uh, what happened right around then to change the Griz’ offense? Can’t remember…oh well. Conley with 20 on 13 shots with seven assists and ZERO turns. Here’s what Conley had to say after the game-check out how he addresses the “gas tank” concern about :40 into the sound:
Thing three: The bench. Sure, most of the fourth quarter was mega-stenchy refuse time, but it matters not-these guys, especially Leuer and Daye, needed a good showing. Daye ‘cuz he’s had some terrible moments lately and Leuer ‘cuz his moments have been few and far between. The two combined for 8-10 from the field and were chiefly responsible for the wilting of the Bobcats over the first few minutes of the fourth quarter. Here we have remarks from folk-hero-of-the-night Jon Leuer:
Thing four: Zach on the boards. It’s well known that pogosticks present problems for the Grizzlies’ frontline…and lesser-rate though they may be, McRoberts, Tyrus Thomas, and Biyombo are that…and ZBo went for 11 and 13 in 26 minutes, and displayed better effort going for rebounds than we’ve seen from him recently. Could he be ramping it up? We will see.
Thing five: Dooling still looks nervous as a cat, but he’ll come around. It’s already easy to see that he knows that defense is how he’ll earn and keep his time, as I’m sure he knows that Hollins has actually used the word “terrible” to describe Wroten’s D this season.
Thing six: Bayless and Arthur are allowed another game to rest and get healthy. They’ll both be of utmost importance when the postseason arrives, and the more Coach Hollins can let them model nice clothes on the bench for the next ten days or so, the better. Pondexter is rounding back into form-he didn’t look to be pressing nearly as much this game, although that could have been the opponent dictating his effort level, which is…
Thing seven…HORRIBLE. Playing to competition this late in the season in a tight race for homecourt is bad, bad. Idling the motor is something that came back to bite the Grizzlies big time in the playoffs last season, and Hollins has to dig deeper into his suitcase of courage (cycling fans get that one?) to find more motivation for these guys once the “real” season starts.
Big thanks as always to our own Lee Smith for grabbing the postgame audio-here’s Coach Lionel Hollins’ postgame presser:
At Houston Friday, and then what is likely to be the biggest regular season game many of these guys have ever played. Grind time is comin’ for real…