First things first: according to Ron Tillery from the Commercial Appeal, former Grizzlies owner Michael Heisley has emerged from his coma after almost two months (!!!) and his responsiveness is encouraging. Couldn’t be more thrilled for that man and for his family. Oh, to see him get to watch the Grizzlies hoist a trophy…that’s movie stuff.Now on to the games.
Today, fellow hoops devotees, we will do that favorite exercise of mine from middle school English class (with apologies to Mrs. Brigsten, my AP English teacher).
Let’s compare and contrast. And we’ll do it as relates to four key aspects of these two games.
Fourth quarter scoring:
Over the three games leading up to the Lakers game, the Grizzlies have outscored their opponent in the fourth quarter by an average of just over nine points, and in the game previous to those, the Rockets outscored the Grizzlies…but the game was decided by that point. The fourth quarter of the Blazers game was not exactly a thing of beauty-there was a stretch of almost three minutes of game time during which NEITHER team scored a point-but the Grizzlies did not let the Blazers get the gap under twelve points.
Against the Lakers, the Grizzlies did “pull a Grizzlies”, and outscore the opponent in the final frame, but it wasn’t enough. Earl Clark continued to prove that he’s a bit more deserving of minutes than he was given in PHX or ORL. MIP? Nah, probably not-he’s just seen a minute increase-but he is learning to impact the game more as time passes. The fact that Gasol and Randolph only took four FGA’s in Q4 is an easy place to look for the end-of-game falter. However, it’s even easier to look at a 4-11 quarter from Bayless and Conley as the key earmark of a good Laker defense and a lack of balance for the Griz.
Unsurprisingly, the Grizzlies looked very good offensively against the Blazers, who have had their defensive struggles this season anyway and were without two key players in Batum and Aldridge against the Grizzlies. Every starter had multiple assists, and Bayless, despite going 0-8 from the field, registered seven assists to only two turnovers. Overall, the team was excellent in this aspect, with 27 assists on 34 total FG’s.
It’s tough to find fault with the Grizzlies in this aspect of the game when ast/TO is viewed as something discrete from the rest of the game-24 ast on 38 makes with only 7 (!!) turns. However…that whole “final score” thing says that the Grizzlies mired themselves perhaps a bit too deeply in that now-famous “mud”. 84 points against a team that has not exactly been a defensive wall for the season is unacceptable, especially as the team looks to iron out any remaining kinks as the playoffs approach.
This guy, I tell ya. 20 points on 11 shots, 5 assists to one lonely turnover. And not one Grizzlies fan is surprised by that performance he turned in against the Blazers. At least they shouldn’t be. Seems Hollins is giving him more freedom of late, and he’s found seams more times than not…but…
…a 1-5 fourth quarter against the Lakers was something none of us want to see again. Was he mugged on the final play? Matters not. Was Howard smart enough to not be sealed off the play by wandering too far from the goal? Matters not.
162 points surrendered over two road games against two teams who are very capable in the scoring department is nothing at which one might sneeze, and even more encouraging is the fact that the Grizzlies turned the ball over far less than either opponent. Pondexter’s defensive play as accelerated of late, but another shoddy shooting performance (1-7) against LAL is of great concern. His shooting and ability to get the occasional offensive board has to get back to where it was earlier in the season if he’s to be able to help the Griz significantly in the postseason.
Home court is slipping away…the Grizzlies have a metric ton of work to do if they want to hold any hope of starting the playoffs in the Grindhouse.