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The Grizzlies get at least a season split from a Southwest Division opponent?

Hmmm…there might be something to this “Hollins Freedom” thing…

…ok, I just slapped myself. Two games is nothing.

But when the season has gone the way the Grizzlies’ season has, two games is a heavenly respite from watching the team give up game after game.

Tonight’s game was similar in some respects to this season’s previous MEM/HOU game at the Forum-some absurd hustle from the Grizzlies and a distinct willingness tosee the game through to the end.

And the most important aspect of the win?

The Grizzlies dictated the style and pace of the game whenever it was humanly possible.

A far, far cry from, say, the Thunder game when the team allowed OKC to dictate the pace and style of the game to the extent that Rudy Gay was playing freaking center in the fourth.

Oh. and OJ Mayo is absolutely ridiculous.

Another very nice start for the Grizzlies, with OJ and Rudy and Conley all hitting shots early-again, the Grizzlies dictating how the game would be played with ball movement on the perimeter and good hustle inside.Darko returned tonight, and did very well considering the amount of time he’s missed. Sure, he was rusty, especially on defense-but Darko did something TWICE that I REALLY liked-HE DUNKED THE DANG BALL. Also hit a very nice stepback baseline jumper for his first basket-his ability to shoot is something he’ll have to develop even further so that he can keep defenses from sagging excessively and cutting off passing lanes and keeping him from driving. TMac, for his part, did very well, taking advantage of his size and experience on the offensive end-I was actually glad to see him looking healthy, even though he was killin’ the Grizzlies in the first half. Both teams went borderline bananas on offense in the first quarter-Yao was his usual gargantuan self until his second foul came around with a scant amount to go in the period. When his alimentary canal began to disagree with him later, he really hit the wall.

The “new” attacking style of the Grizzlies was very much in evidence throughout tonight-Scola, Landry, Yao, Shane, Artest….all of them had their issues with *having* to foul Griz players as they drove to the basket, hustled on the boards, and, in general, did what iscalled in basketball circles “leavin’ it all on the floor”.

Tonight presented an interesting, seemingly contradictory, picture of the “renewed” Grizzlies offense..and it’sa darned pretty picture, I’d say-what the team is showing is that plays that require multiple picks from different directions, multiple cuts, and an even greater number of passes, with counters thrown in depending on the defense can look as simple asa free throw if the EFFORT TO EXECUTE WITH CRISPNESS is there. Very specific floor placement and spacing, communication, and confidence are all something we’re seeing in gloriously greater quantity since Hollins has taken over. Sure, this team would have to do something really, really special to make it evena 30-win season-but I think that forward movement and development would give Rudy, OJ, and the guys a really good mindset going into the offseason….and games like tonight’s contest will surely help in that regard.

Another encouraging thing we saw tonight-the second half did not see the Grizzlies succumb to the adjustments made by the opposition.

Did I mention that the Grizzlies dictated the style as much as the game would allow?

Oh, and did I say anything about OJ Mayo’s abject awesomeness?

The young Grizzlies held the Rockets to 38 second-half points…NICE!!! How’d they do it? One of my favorite words-fitness. Hollins has said that the conditioning of the team, while not bad, must improve-and tonight, the team showed what how its youth can be a real advantage-they didn’t run out of gas like they did in the recent OT loss at OKC (and having Darko there to spell Marc G helped in that capacity as well, as did Hakim Warrick waking up from his nap). The Grizzlies’ defense stepped up nicely as the second half went on, even though Houston did draw WAY too close for comfort in the fourth. The Grizzlies put it on lock for the last few minutes and the Rockets were forced to go so three-happy that D’Antoni himself would have probably been put off by it. Man I love good defense and hustle on the glass…which is what the Grizzlies displayed over the final stretch of thegame. Sure, the lid was on the hoop for the Grizz in the fourth quarter too-but they made the ones that really counted. Being physical and refusing to be intimidated in the face of potentially very intimidating opposition.

Bench play was much improved in this game-Darko and Hak made nice contributions (although Hak made his requisite number of boneheaded defensive plays, getting burned on switches), as did, uh, well, I guess I have to say it…Marko Jaric,with the Griz’ shorter Serb hitting a reallynice quarter-closing layup to preserve some momentum for the Grizzlies.Buckner played some nice D and didn’t scare me by trying to dribble the ball around too much.

Learning how to win. Sure, there will be lots more losses this season-but Lionel Hollins seems to at least have the sense of “don’t jack with me-I know what I want to do”-type self confidence that the Grizzlies have sorely, sorely lacked in recent times…and with any luck, his attitude will continue to transfer itself to the collective psyche of the players.

And knew this was coming…Conley was only a couple digits away from his first triple-double…HE’S THE NEXT JASON KIDD!!!!

Only kidding, Zack.

Great win for the Grizzlies…keep learning guys.

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