Are the Grizzlies acclimating to life without ZBo? The case could be made. Ball movement, perimeter D, and shot selection have improved over the last three games, and as we all know, nothing succeeds like success.
Particulars about this game? Come on in, we’ll discuss….-Ball movement and decisionmaking. There were plenty of smart plays in this game for the Griz (and for the Hornets), but none a better example than a Tony Allen fast break in the first quarter. Wait, what? You betcha. A darned good decision for TA. Got the ball on a fast break, went right by Conley (OH NO), then I saw what he was doing. Drawing the attention of the man ostensibly watching Gasol…got to the lane…then shuffled the ball behind Gasol’s defender’s back for the easy layup for Marc. Poise, control, and presence of mind. The only Grizzly who seemed to be rushing/pushing a bit was OJ. Took a decent shot on his first possession in the game (standard screen/curl Rip-esque play), but clanked it. He did play a nice role in a couple later rotations, but he’s pressing to score a bit.
Also, Mareese Speights had two assists. Were the Mayans right? I’m becoming a bit fearful. Can’t be upset with his play overall, however. The combination of Speights and Cunningham (although Dante was overmatched on D this night) has certainly helped to fill the Arthur void, and a teeny bit of the ZBo void even.
The Hornets actually schemed fairly well for the Grizzlies’ high-low plays (especially since Speights/Cunningham/Davis are not used to the spacing and timing of the plays), which hung up Conley (we’ll not even discuss Selby, who had his “regress” game tonight) on the perimeter a bit. As in the victory over the Knicks, though, the Grizzlies’ newfound ability to actually TAKE and MAKE 3′s helped to ease the concerns over the Hornets’ packing of the lane.
-Defense. Good rotations for the Grizzlies, taking the Hornets deep into the shot clock on double-digit occasions (especially now-Griz-arch-enemy Greivis Vasquez), with Jason Smith making a couple of shots just as the 24 turned to zero. Cannot be overstated, though, how much Conley and Allen disrupt even a big, strong gaurd like Jarrett Jack by draping themselves over the opponent physically, then putting up fences in the passing lanes that are, as my son might say, “as high as the sky with rain in it”. The run at the end of the second quarter was all about steals and fast break points, and that’s the way the Griz have to play if they intend to win even a meager-to-respectable number of games in ZBo’s absence.
-Shot selection. Tony Allen, by my count, took *one* bad shot…and he had made a similar one a short time beforehand, so it’s actually rather forgivable. Gasol showed some restraint on the patented Marc Gasol “look out lane and whomever is in it, here I come” moves, and instead looked to execute spiffy give-and-go two-man activity on several occasions. Also hit his one or two perimeter shots per game,and took double-digit trips to the line. Only recall one or two wing postup/iso plays for Marc, which is nice. Keeps him from picking up silly offensive fouls, and lets him use his ample passing ability to get other players easy shots. Rudy Gay did another excellent job picking his moments-stayed in control and didn’t press. It did seem unusual, though, that the Griz seemed intent on going to him when Aminu was guarding him-Aminu is actually not that great a matchup for Rudy. He’s long, athletic, and an already-decent defender.
Shot of the game? Mike Conley’s three to put the Griz back up six in the fourth after NOH had really closed it down.
Not good to see the Griz give up a 16-pt third quarter lead, but it was wonderful to see them NOT wilt under the pressure of a charging JASON SMITH (did the Earth tremble when I typed his name?) and a plucky Hornet bench.
BIG test, and revenge time, on Monday against the Bulls. Beating up on the Bulls and getting back to .500 on the same day? That’d sure be nice….