Well, what a nice cold dish of revenge. No, Bulls fans, you didn’t have Rose-but the Griz were/are still without ZBo.
This game followed a similar path to a few other Griz wins of this still-young season-get out to a nice double-digit lead, then almost choke it away.
But the near, not full, choke proves a nice point about the Grizzlies of this season……and that thing is that they can play with a lead. Just like the victory over the Kings, just like the victory over the Wolves, the Grizzlies jumped out to a large first-half lead, only to see the “well, we knew they’d make a run” thing happen.
The common things that are appearing more often that definitely made a difference in this game?
-BOARDS. No Rose? Ok. How about no ZBo? The Grizzlies hustled their way to a +12 on the glass this game, and it was because of good, old-fashioned, hard-nosed work. Sometimes the Griz went higher to get the board, sometimes it was about positioning. Speights, in particular, showed good grit against Noah and Boozer, using his size to have maybe the best rebounding game of his career (maybe the high-water mark wasn’t too far up there, but still). Gasol, in a broken-record style, once again showed that in ZBo’s absence, he’s by far the Griz’ most important player. At times, he displays an almost Waltonesque ability to control his team’s defense within the paint, calling plays, rotations, and screens while not losing his man. Yes, I said that. He’s a great help to Speights, too-playing behind Elton Brand is not the best example to see regarding defense, and Marreese is now learning how to do it. The guards, especially Mike Conley (more on him later), got into the act as well, showing no fear over getting into the paint and fighting for misses.
-the other parts of defense were not too shabby either-and I’m gonna give it up to none other than Mr. Ovinton J’Anthony Mayo for his relentless chasing of Kyle Korver, not letting the Kutcheresque One get loose enough to get a rain of 3′s started. Korver went 0-4 with zero total points. Shutting down a screen-using spotup guy like that involves two aspects: proper scheming (up to the coaches, yes, but up to the player or players to follow said schemes) and effort. The effort part is entirely up to the players involved, and OJ put out a great amount of effort. OJ didn’t have his best game otherwise, but he did the thing the Griz needed him to do the most. Conley, although his game was marred by an uncharacteristically high number of turnovers, had another great game living in the other team’s passing lanes.
-Rudy Gay. When he came back in with eight minutes to go and almost immediately made the hook shot with and-one, he did what he must become able to do for the Griz on demand-help salt away a game where the opponent has come back within striking distance. For a third straight game, he did a great job mixing up his shots-getting the outside working to keep his defender honest, and then heading inside when the situation calls for it. Perhaps Rudy’s play of the year was the patented Rudy Gay iso, this time with taller but slower Joakim Noah playing the victim. Gay went right around him and rocked the rim, and a case could have been made for the and-one on that play as well.
And also, Brian Scalabrine had a blocked shot.
Another great national TV win, and the revenge factor made it all the sweeter. If the Grizzlies can hold at .500 or a bit better ’til ZBo gets back, the playoffs look like a more reachable goal. Keep it up Grizzlies.