Yep, I love it when Kyle Lowry loses. Vindictive? Perhaps. Silly? Almost certainly. But I care not. Lowry’s attitude when he plays the Griz (“I’ll show you fools that you should have anointed me the starter”) is just absurd.
Love it anytime the Griz win so convincingly, but especially against the Rockets.
It’s hard not to just gush about what went right in this game, so I’ll just ride the wave….It was just a crazy inversion of the horrendous third quarter of the opening game at SAS. Swarming defense, drawing fouls on both ends, and hitting shots (and not out of luck-open shots were ubiquitous for the Griz this game to the tune of 60% in Q3.
Four biggest A++ gushes over this game:
-Marc Gasol. Never seen a guy more willing to show that he’s out to earn that fat contract he just signed. He’s never been one to shy away from contact (one of the many reasons that he’s our favorite Gasol brother, right Memphis?), but he has shown ZERO fear about mixing it up inside with Duncan, Perkins, Dalembert, or any of the lesser players he’s faced over the still-newborn season. Now it must be said that lining up against Jordan Hill and Sam Dalembert must just make Gasol’s eyes get big-but the footwork and body positioning Gasol displayed this game was just a joy to watch. Can’t beat an effortless block against a fellow seven-footer, eh, Mr. Dalembert? Physical without fouling, aggressive but patient on offense (although he had an uncharacteristically low one assist to four turns), and as excellent a teammate as an NBA player could want.
-(in my Rick Trotter voice) ZAAAAAAACCCHHH RAAANDOLPH!!!! It was plain as the defeat on Kyle Lowry’s face that ZBo had his mojo workin’, finally! He frustrated Scola at every turn, goading Scola into a foul here and a foul there, on both ends of the floor. ZBo at last was able to get the ball in his favored positions (mid-lane extended on the wing, and 12-14 out on the baseline), and his teammates gave him space to work. When he gathers and starts toward the basket, I cannot help but be reminded of Keith Jackson’s trademark “rumblin, bumblin, stumblin” football call. ZBo plays in the post like a good fullback, and when he gets it going right, all those who have ostracized him over the years start thinking of all the ways that good crow can be cooked and eaten. To a fair degree, the Griz go as goes ZBo, and more times than not, that’s an ok thing. 11-14 with nine rebounds and three assists to boot. His defense was none too shabby this game as well. Eleventh season, and he’s hurtling into his prime.
-The Grizzlies’ PG combo. Zero NBA experience coming into the season between them, and a great game against a strong defensive PG (see, I can compliment Lowry-especially since it’s the truth. He’s a great defender). Ok. Lowry only logged 24 minutes-but getting into a guy’s head with fouls works wonders. 12 asts to 4 TO’s, with Selby dishing seven and turning only one. Likely an anomaly, since anyone will tell you he’s got plenty of learning to do and seasoning to experience, but I’d still suspect that the ever-fickle Griz fanbase will become very upset when Conley comes back and Selby starts needing splinter-resistant shorts. Both these players possess far greater penetration ability than any Griz backup PG since…Lowry. Strength with the ball is what helps Pargo, and it’s blazing quickness that gives Selby his worth in the lane. Obviously, Selby slowed down from his ultra-nervous 300 mph speed in the OKC game and took time to initiate the Griz’ offense. I’d postulate that the person happiest about that has the initials “L.H.”. A win-now team (it’s so nice to legitimately call the Griz by that description) usually doesn’t like to rely on an undersized, although undeniably talented, combo guard-but Conley’s unfortunate injury is making that happen for the near (as in a few games, anyway) future.
-The two new forwards. It’s easy to like both of them-Cunningham again showed his Arthur-sorta-replacing pick and pop ability with some great athletic ability (most notable was a nice block on a taller Dalembert, negated by a questionable foul call). He appreciates the opportunity, and it shows. Pondexter is, I think we can all agree, the player acquired to replace Sam Young in the rotation. Will Young be moved? His body language and countenance on the bench is about as not-good as one would expect from a player who will not enjoy his same level of minutes from last season. Will any team want him? He is legit NBA talent, but is his head right? Time will tell. Meanwhile, Quincy Pondexter will make the most of his chance to show Hollins that he deserves the spot behind Rudy Gay at SF. This night, he showed even more that he has a (dare I say it???) slightly Battier-esque ability to be in the right place at the right time, Forrest Gumping his way into a meaningful game contribution, some of which shows in a box score (5-9 FG’s and a team-leading +17 sure do) and some things that don’t (running guys off their spot on D and functioning well in transition both ways).
Opening night for Chicago on Sunday. That’s gonna be tough, but if the Griz improve from this game to that one as much as from the OKC game to this victory, the Bulls could be in a ton of trouble.