Haha. Title’s funny, right? Sorry, I’m just giddy that the Griz have managed to win two whole games in a row since ZBo went down. Sure, the games were not exactly against contenders,but the wins were both oh-so-huge.
The Grizzlies surely resembled a ship adrift without the mainsail (that’d be ol’ #50-get well fully and quickly, big man), but they managed to get it done.
One stat line overcomes all others for this game…
8-8, 4-4. TONY ALLEN DID NOT MISS. Be amazed, and be grateful. Focused and intense, in the GOOD TA way. No Mr. Hyde, all Dr. Jekyll. The bizarro-world midget ball the Griz were forced to play for several stretches of this game put Allen up against the much-taller Anthony Tolliver on D, and he played hard defense in every situation. He said twice in the postgame interview that it was all about listening to Coach Joerger on D, and he did it. He constantly clogged the upper part of the lane, helping the Griz deal with the becoming-deadlier-by-the-possession Rubio pick and roll plays.
Now back to the ship adrift. There were many ways to tell that the Griz were missing Randolph (the fact that Kevy-Kev was able to score and rebound as he usually does was one).
-The aforementioned bizarro-world midget ball. PG/Mayo/Pondexter/Young/Gay? Did I see that? I did, or something like it. It’s as foreign a feeling for the coaching staff as it is for the players, and it showed. Just like in the SAC game from the night previous, there were WAY too many Griz possessions that wound up with a rushed clunky jumper or a forced 2007-vintage iso from Rudy Gay. It’s not so much that the execution was poor, it was nonexistent. Checking whether the Griz can pursue a second option on offense if the initial execution doesn’t pan out is a favorite thing of mine to do, and this game, it wasn’t so fun to watch, because there weren’t many if any second options. Pargo, in particular, really looked lost. He’s a nice backup for sure, but he must learn to direct guys to positions to receive second-option passes/kickouts. His decisionmaking upon penetrating the lane (which, to his credit, he has done pretty much at will) is still shaky, and it’s not all about knowing guys’ preferences. It’s about controlling speed and directing spacing before the penetrating move. Of course, if he gets in the lane and has no one taller than a graciously-measured 6’6″ to whom he can pass, it’s easy to see how a busted play can happen.
-Marc Gasol getting gassed. A hard 40-plus-minute effort the night previous, a plane ride, and another game took its toll on MG. Odds are good that he’ll not have this poor a shooting night again anytime soon, and the team survived-but of all the players who must move into a centerpiece/leadership role during ZBo’s downtime, Marc is the top of the list. Will Speights prove himself to be a reliable post-up option? We can hope, but he’s gonna be game-rusty and will have to learn the nuances of the Griz offense (although, let’s be honest-are NBA offenses really *that* radically different from one another?). Speights being able to come in and play a not-undersized 4/5 will be a great help, and it may not even be “stealing minutes” for Gasol to catch a breather. Rebounding is effort, and Marc has done wonderfully at it thus far-but effort takes gas out of the tank.
A couple other things of note:
-Speaking of rebounding effort, Rudy Gay. Rebounding and hustling inside. Sounds great, eh? Well, it is-but teams are showing Rudy TONS of attention (as they should), and he’s trying to fight through it. Best outcome (Rudy being able to use his talent and athleticism to bust double teams in the post) was not realized this game…and if he can’t outjump and/or outsmart Tolliver and co, it’s gonna be real tough come Sunday night at Staples. It’s a combination of rust from the injury and the fact that he’s having to bear a burden inside he’s never been asked to bear, and he got his shot blocked for his trouble, picked up a couple fouls, and generally had a rough shooting night. His attitude seems good, though, and if he can maintain a positive outlook, he’ll take to it just fine…just in time for ZBo to come back in six weeks or so and then he’ll have to revert to SF Rudy. We’ll see if Rudy can pull the chameleon act effectively.
-The team’s free throw shooting, especially late in the game. There were twenty total points scored in the final minute of play, with the Grizzlies making all their free throws to clinch the game over that span. Sounds a small thing, but winning a close game in that manner should be a true confidence builder for the Griz. Counting on teammates in the clutch like that feeds the “Griz v. the world” mentality that has served them so well over the last two seasons.
Great win, and on to Utah, and one of the underrated Griz killers of all time, one CJ Miles. Backdoor dunks, threes, you name it. Griz gotta stop this guy for once.
Gasol v. Jefferson will be a great matchup, and perhaps the one that determines the outcome of that game. Get some rest, Marc. To be over .500 going into the Lakers game would put the team in a good position. Come on Griz….