Two games against two of the weaker teams in the East. Cakewalk, right?
Neither of these games was the Griz’ brightest outing of the year, but the job they did against the Wizards was (just barely) good enough to get the job done.
As one might expect, there was good. There was bad. There was ugly. Then, about two light-years south of ugly, was the FT percentage from the loss to Toronto….Good:
-This “ZBo” character. He’s pretty good. Silliness aside, he’s back, and *just about* all the way back. Positioning-wise, he’s there, and the rest of the team already appears to be ready to have him assume his normal spots on offense. Good to see. He’s also scoring in his normal manner-get that ball, go to that rack. Footwork is beautiful as always. He’s likely not in full game shape, but he has looked good (read: not winded and grabbing his shorts an inordinate amount) in the minutes he’s played (which, it would seem, were locked in at 24-25 a game for these first couple games back from the MCL injury). He’s grabbed rebounds with the same ground-bound tenacity, his hands are soft as ever.As Hollins announced after the game, ZBo will be back in the starting lineup on the upcoming road trip, but his minutes will still be limited to a degree, which is good…since Randolph does appear a teeny bit skittish about cutting and contact, and who can blame the guy.
-Rudy Gay with two consecutive 25-plus scoring games with 18-37 total shooting. Nice. Two total hero three-pointers, too. Clutch. And he wants it. Gotta think that there will be no ego battles, either-as long as the team is winning at a reasonable clip. (dream interlude) …if the Griz can get Gay and Zbo both totally healthy, and have two potential end-of-game assassins available for a possible playoff run….(snap back to present moment).
-88 (WOW) total free throw attempts in the two games. Four players with at least six attempts in the WAS game, and Gasol and ZBo both had double-digit FTA’s in the TOR loss. A vast number of the attempts came the way you want them for sure-second chance putback attempts, and guys getting fouled headed for the hoop. Such a drastically high number of attempts is great, but needless to say, we’ll be discussing free throws again in a sec…
-First and foremost, the Grizzlies, while playing generally good defense (twelve steals in each game, 42 total forced TO’s over the pair of games), have found a way to do something that the Grizzlies of, say, 2008 had a HORRIBLE habit of doing, which is allowing some scrubalicious non-entity to go off during a game. Now everyone knows that every single NBA player has shown some semblance of talent to gain entry into the planet’s top competitive basketball environment, so I’m not knocking Gary Forbes’ or Kevin Seraphin’s level of talent-but come on. A top-ten defense like the Grizzlies have should be swatting guys like these off like flies, not allowing them 20-pt games and/or double-doubles. A blown rotation here, a lack of second effort there, and you get a guy like Jordan Crawford going almost ten over his average. Balanced focus is how the Grizzlies have to get past this type of hiccup.
-Speaking of defense, giving up at least 47% shooting to two teams who are not exactly in the upper echelon of the NBA. This is definitely related to the first concern-sure, John Wall can kill any team on any night, but you can’t let him go nuts in addition to a guy like Crawford/Seraphin, or like Forbes in the Toronto game. Thirteen total threes given up over the two games, not a crazily high number….but the Raps shot 7-15 (unacceptable) and the Wiz went 6-18 (tolerable, but again, for a team as generally good in the perimeter passing lanes as are the Grizz, not where it needs to be). The Grizzlies will watch tape and prepare…opponents’ shooting percentage will be a key item to watch on this upcoming rather brutal west coast trip.
-31 for 51. That’s all that needs to be said. Do we give ZBo a pass on the 7-14? Hmmm….ok. First game back jitters? Ok. All the other guys who managed to miss 13 more? Groans all around.
SAC/POR/LAL/LAC. To say this is a “pretty big week” for the Grizzlies would be, well, an inadequate definition of the road trip. Defense on the road, Grizzlies. That’s what’s gotta happen….