Ok. It’s been written in this space umpteen times that I am a great proponent and fan of “unpretty basketball”.
However, I have my limits.
The guy covered in lake leeches in the directv commercial? He’s Cindy-Crawford-in-her-prime pretty compared to this game.
The Grizzlies were able to hold on and win, almost despite themselves. A few things stood out, and one of these things might surprise you….
Thing one: We’ll all hope ZBo is savin’ it up for the postseason. I’ll just leave it at that.
Thing two: We’ll all hope that Conley has some in the tank for the postseason. 25 points on 14 shots, and it’s easy to see with each passing game that Pera knew what he was doing when he chose Conley and Gasol for the “dinner” in SFO back in November. Conley didn’t have a perfect game, far from it-but his ability to orchestrate is so far and above any other current Griz PG that it can be written in cement that he is, well, the second-most important player on the team. It’s amazing just how much better Conley has become at stopping the ball since his rookie season…but this game, the Conley and his teammates played great halfcourt D, but transition….well…uh, yeah. Odd to say, but it was nice to see how bummed he was in the postgame interview about that missed FT, and the team’s inability to make an 84-76 lead stick without another close-game freakout. He did hit 5-6 FT’s in Q4, but that one…that could have been costly.
Thing three: Pondexter didn’t have as good a game as we think. At least throw ripe tomatoes, please. Hear me out. Yes, he was instrumental in the win (7-13, two HUGE FT’s at the end, two steals, etc.), but if you watch him closely on D (and sometimes as he looks for a shot as well), he’s still pressing. Strange, as he’s usually the last “tries to do too much” guy-but he’s overplaying on D and looking a bit out of the box on offense. Will this overly-aggressive play round itself into “supersub” for the playoffs? Wouldn’t bet against it, as he’s playing in the right places on D and taking “QP” shots…he’s just pressing. That injury is what is likely making him feel like he’s got to prove himself more than he really does.
Thing four: Dooling didn’t look too bad on D. He seems quick on his feet and smart about positioning. On offense, he’s obviously not going to get to a silky-smooth point, but in spot minutes, he can get things happening. Would Dooling and Bayless work? Likely yes, since both of them can catch-and-shoot as well as handle. That’ll be an interesting combo to see.
Thing five: Speaking of interesting combos, Wroten/Pondexter/Daye/Leuer/Randolph. Strange, and…it didn’t go very well. That lineup was -5 in about two and a half minutes. Yes, that lineup being on the floor did coincide with Toney Douglas’ game-changing presence in the second quarter, but it still wasn’t good on either end. Weird combo number two: Conley/Prince/Daye/ZBo/Gasol. Again, a short shift for this group, but it was obvious that the wing guys weren’t used to this configuration. Hollins is likely just shifting minutes around, especially this night with two regulars out with “injuries” (gotta wonder this time of year), as the playoffs approach.
Thing six: Big Spain. 15 and 10 with 4 ast and five blocks, none bigger than the game-ender against Thornton as he attempted a three (hey, it would have likely missed anyway, but who cares? Maybe it wouldn’t have, and if he had made that…ooof). It’s been said many times that the locker room belongs to TA and Randolph, but as for leading by example? Hard to get past Gasol. What he was able to do in terms of making up for the Grizzlies’ otherwise-not-stellar interior D *cuts glance at #50* likely is what made the Grizzlies able to hold on for the win.
Thing seven: I hated rooting for the Lakers today. Boy, did that hurt. Pretty sure that my fellow Griz fans feel the same.
267 points in three games on the road trip, even though the record was 2-1, was another unpleasant reminder that scoring is going to be the highest hurdle in the postseason. Can the Grizzlies get a 20/10 out of ZBo to help him feel better going into the postseason?