Could it be?Yes, it hassomethingto do with winning three straight for the first time in what seems like forever…but it has everything to do with HOW the games were won. There’s a big ol’ cliche coming right after the break…wait for it….
Well, here it comes…FINDING WAYS TO WIN. Ugh. Hate the spewing of platitudes, but sometimes they just fit, darnit.
Over the last three wins, there have been some commonalities.
Wait a second, sorry, had to take a minute to watch Rudy’s gamewinning shot/block again
Ok, back to the ramble. Well, let’s see.
-let’s don’t call every play for Zach Randolph. Really, let’s don’t, and see, he still can help the team like he does when you do call every play for him. And, at times like the fourth quarter of the victory over Houston last Friday, when the matchup favors him, let’s feed him like the block-beast he can be. Anomalous, that he’d have his way with a guy as athletic as Jordan Hill? Not really, since Hill is, by any measure, still finding his way in the NBA.Best part of it? LOTS more movement in and out of the lane with ZBo and Gasol. Lo and behold, Gasol benefits more than Randolph does, and guess what else? Teams can’t go for the instant double-on-the-catch on ZBo like they can when…bring the circle around…they know every play is gonna be the ol’ turn-4. Gasol’s improved play is going to help the whole team, and is perhaps the most important aspect of the team’s offense going forward as the Griz make a real attemptat moving into the playoff picture. Have these three games been a harbinger of things to come from Marc G.? Oh, do I hope so.
-following from the previous point, the wing guys are not forcing passes into either post player at any point in the shot clock. Yes, this might lead to the Sam Youngs and Tony Allens of the world taking some unwanted shots, but both players have been hitting enough of the shots to make me think they’re at least a sometimes-viable option. Mr. Conley and Mr. Vasquez (more on him and his colleagues in a moment) also have to get some credit here, as what they’ve been doing is less gassing around out near the halfcourt line and more swinging the ball from side to side. Speaking of wing players…..
-OJ Mayo. Double figures becoming a regular thing, thankfully. Sure, he’s still at the top of the odd-man-out list-but while he’s here, the Grizzlies could sure use his scoring. I know, I know-that’s kinda like when Harry Caray used to say “boy, the Cubs could sure usea run here, Steve”, but it’s no less true. OJ’s way in the NBA has been, is being, and will be made as a scorer. Not just a shooter, but a scorer and a capable playmaker when paired with the right finisher at the right time. OJ’s part in the double-dagger of threes in MIL on Saturday night was perhaps the most important shot of the season thus far for him: not just for himself and his confidence, but for his teammates and coaches and the level of trust they feel they can put in him. Have the Grizzlies wasted a generational talent, as OJ was advertised when he was about eleven? No. Utilized incorrectly, almost certainly, but not put in a corner to waste away…oh no wait, that has happened a couple of times, but not now.The two threes he hit against Toronto were huge (yes, he was only 2-5 from3, but that’s still 40%), and 5-10 overall is a fine game from #32. OJ’s bench role?For better or for worse, it’s here. Speaking of bench guys….
-Number doublezero and Greivis Vasquez.Yes, GV’slooooonnnnggg pass to OJ for the alley-oop layup in the MIL game was spot-on and spectacular, and he’s lobbed some nice ones to DA for sure…but some consistently passionateplay from these twoguys has been key in severalGriz wins. Arthur has been making regular forays into the paint for some gutsy putbacks, and he’s been learning fromone of the best about how to read the rebound beforeit happens. Glad that he’s finally seen an allergist about that paint thing.As for “finding ways to win”, the play of these two guys, OJ, and Tony Allen (aka the BENCH) during the first bench rotation in the TOR game was the reason for the win. The starters had come out flatter than western Kansas,and had gotten down 20-11 to Toronto, and the ol’ sinking feeling was manifesting itself (forta the way it felt when the Griz choked away that 18-pt lead at MIL)…but the bench (plus a dose of astarter or two) got that one-point lead to end the first quarter and get into the second without relinquishing it. In the win over the Bucks, Arthur went 7-11, and while GV went 0-2, he had four assists (and only one turnover) in only 12 minutes. That’s what a bench has to do. In these three wins, the bench scored 39, 27, and 32 points. Much better than the multitude of sub-20-point bench outputs we’ve seen over parts of this season and much of last.
Oh yeah, then there’s this Rudy Gay fellow. Near-max money? Jury’s still out on that, but he has one very important characteristic of players who attain such lofty economic status: he wants that ball at the end of the game. The way he came and got the ball and (yes I’ll say it) swaggered around with it at the top of the key before driving for the baseline jumpstop winner against Toronto was the stuff of stars. Thrilling. Love it. Keep it up Rudy, and keep giving him the ball rest of the team. No time to argue-you throw him the ball, he throw you the win (little Raiders of the Lost Ark mangled reference there).
Run the table on the road trip, Grizzlies. Keep us interested through the end of March, anyway…and we’d LOVE to still be interested in the Grizzlies come May