Now that is a Grizzlies win in the finest Grizzlies style. Again, not perfect-but a great, great win for a team in desperate need of wins.
Several of the hallmarks of a great win were there, some bigger than others…but none bigger than……running into an opponent who really wasn’t interested in playing defense. But, the egg that came before that chicken-the Grizzlies’ collective willingness to come back from a gloomy-but-insignificant first-quarter deficit caused by a very accurate start from the Hawks.
Most important takeaway from such a slaughter? The Grizzlies won the first quarter (hope no one lost consciousness when that happened) by two, the second quarter by eight, and the third quarter by fourteen (holding ATL to a lowly 12 in Q3). They pressed on the gas pedal, and when the gas pedal morphed into the neck of the opponent, they didn’t let up. That is what playoff teams do, and is what the Griz have failed to do more than once. During an early-season streak of going up big in Q1, sometimes against lesser competition, the team failed to keep the pressure level high. Not so this night.
A few other items of note:
-Dante Cunningham. Yes, our esteemed broadcasters were gushing over his energy level-and rightly so. His responsibilities on the court are not nearly as great as some of the starters, so it would seem odd that the fire seems to have been lighted the hottest under his shorts over the last two games-but that has been the case. Absurd, almost panicky energy from this cat. Perhaps the best moment for Dante this game? He managed to execute the sacred high-low post pass that we’ve all seen ZBo and Marc turn into painted-area gold so many times. Not pressing on offense, and making great use of his length without abandoning his footwork on d. He’s hitting the “doing what the coaching staff wants him to do” bullseye.
-Backcourt defense. Conley, TA, OJ, and the rest. It’s time to look at Conley as an above-competent defensive PG. What is making it work is that he and Tony Allen are both high-level steal guys, but they do it differently. TA’s style is a bit more high-risk, and Conley’s is based more on anticipation and eye-watching of the opponent. Both effective as long as they know that there are four other guys behind them watching the whole floor too. Over the last three, the Griz have held the Spurs to 83, the Nuggets under 100 even with overtime, and the Hawks under 80. Nice trend, and the starting backcourt has a ton to do with that. OJ has played good D as well, but his emphasis has been elsewhere….
-OJ keeps puttin’ the ball in the hoop, and this game was no exception. All over the court, taking the open spots the defense gave him. Like Cunningham, he was patient (well, for OJ anyway)-he didn’t look like he came in and tried to go on a 40-0 run.
-49-36. Gee whiz, the Griz win the boards by double digits and win big. Might be something to this “rebounding” thing. Just as with the balance between Conley’s and Allen’s respective defensive styles, the Griz rebound with position (Gasol, Speights), with energy (Cunningham, Gay, Pondexter) and with oh-Lord-someone’s-gonna-get-hurt (Allen). Bigs, wings, guards, in that order. Did it this night just how it’s supposed to be done.
-The Griz, since the (predicted by me within minutes of the final buzzer) “players-only meeting” after the Spurs debacle on Monday, have appeaered rejuvenated. Sorta goes to show…the message from the coaches has been consistent. They didn’t tell the Grizzlies “ok, we’re gonna shoot in the mid-30’s. Let’s just try that and see if it works”. Hollins, Joerger, and co. have not wavered, and have held the team to task to show the team that playing to strengths is what works. It’s about execution and scoring in transition, and HOLY MOLY THAT DUNK THAT ALLEN PUT ON JOSH SMITH. That was the archetype of the Griz’ current model of success.
Major test in OKC tomorrow night. We need for TA to step up big again, and give us a repeat of that postgame interview he gave last season in Oklahoma City right after Rudy got hurt..
“TA, how’d you guys pull this one out?”
“It was just all heart, grit, grind”.