Well, well. Attended my first game in almost a month tonight, and BOY did I get my three hours’ worth. I’m pretty hoarse…but that’s ok. Pretty crazy stuff at the ol’ FEF this evening.
The Magic fell apart due to the Grizzlies’ collective ability to frustrate Dwight Howard past the point of insanity and on into the land of three-second calls, offensive fouls, and techs.
Beautiful game with a great outcome for us Griz fans. As my two-year-old might say, “how happen, Daddy? how happen?”
Well, I’ll tell you how it happened.
Mike Conley. That, oddly enough, is how it happened. Even when SVG smartly stayed with the taller Gilbert Arenas in the fourth quarter, Conley found seams every time he could and found teammates when he couldn’t.
Game-flow-wise, this was one of the stranger games I’ve seen this season. It started abysmally for the Griz, but they accomplished that storm-weathering thing with great character. To only be down seven at first quarter’s end was a miracle in and of itself, with the Magic hitting nine of its first ten shots. I had already started to make my plans for when I got home early from the game..then the Griz brought the Magic “all the way down” to 63% by the start of the second quarter, and they didn’t play all that differently, they just started to make some shots themselves, making ORL expend a bit of energy on D. They did not, however, manufacture the early-game mini-comeback the way they usually might, i.e. dump it down to #50….he was being doubled on every catch, which is something that has spelled utter doom for the Griz in games past. They did it with ZBo’s backup, the recently-invincible Darrell Arthur, and with some gritty, gritty play on Dwight Howard by….uh…Hasheem Thabeet? Really?
Thabeet actually acquitted himself well against the best center in the NBA. Caused a travel, “caused” a 3-sec call, took a nasty, nasty shoulder-drop offensive foul, and committed only one foul in his 12 minutes. Still a horribly frustrating waste of the #2 pick, but he did help tonight, no doubt about it.
The oddness of the game was interrupted at the halftime buzzer by a Jameer Nelson three. The Grizzlies MUST hold some sort of “worst defense on the last possession of a quarter” record. yes, it was a tough-ish shot on a little spin off a pick-but boy, those always hurt.
Then came the third quarter. The Grizzlies stayed as hot in the third as they’d been in the second quarter-Sam Young was hitting, Conley hit a couple of threes, and the Grizzlies attained some separation (but I wasn’t fooling myself-I knew why SVG was saving Gilbert for the fourth). Most importantly, the Grizzlies did something they almost never do-they scrambled to open 3pt shooters and contested them VERY well. The Magic hit six threes in the first half, and only two in the second half, and the Griz held them to a miserable-for-Orlando 8-32 for the game.
The fourth quarter presented a major problem-Mike Conley is short. Just like Andre Miller and so many others before him, Gilbert Arenas figured out that he could do what he wanted when he got a low-wing iso against Conley, and he did it. Gilbert still looks a bit of a fish out of water on the Magic, but he was sure able to take advantage of this matchup. Late in the quarter, Hollins did something really smart for a KEY defensive possession-he took Conley out and put Allen in so that Allen and Young could mark JRich and Arenas. It worked. Way to go LH for making a smart and necessary decision to take your favorite player out of the game for a few seconds during major crunch time. The Grizzlies scored one hoop to start the quarter, then the drought hit. Rudy Gay didn’t really show up too much for this game (although he negated any effect Turk might have had on the game, way to go on that Rudy), but the blowby and ridiculous slam he made to finally stop the ORL run was a super-emphatic play that stemmed the tide of Magic that was rolling at the time.
Over .500. If the Griz can keep this rolling, and then get OJ back with his mind and body right, the playoffs are a distinct possibility. The starters are not looking as nastily worn down already as they did last year, Marc Gasol has returned…the future can look bright. Will the Griz make the best of it?