Funny thing is, the Grizzlies lost the one many were sure they’d win, and won the one that’s as big a “trap game” as one could imagine-Denver, second night of a B2B, haven’t won there hardly EVER (and not in over five years), etc….
There was one aspect common to these two games that is very disturbing and very uncharacteristic for the Griz (and neither game was the team’s best outing of the season, not by a long shot), but there were some encouraging signs, even in a supremely disappointing loss to the Suns on the front end of the B2B.
Steve Nash is awesome and ageless. That’s the bottom line. A lifetime pursuit of fitness, a knowledge of soccer (which requires just as much intuitive sense regarding spacing as does b-ball), and some great genes have kept him at the top of the offensive PG food chain. Pretty much from the outset of the game, the Griz’ total inability to gather a rebound allowed Nash to operate freely-the Griz had to concentrate too hard on trying to stay near the glass (to no effect, as it turned out) and were not able to make second and third rotations on the pick-and-rolls, allowing Jared Dudley and Grant Hill in particular to go nuts from the field (16-30 combined), and the Suns to shoot almost 48% overall. The Grizzlies didn’t have a horrible half offensively-17 of 21 FG’s assisted in the first two quarters, but in the second half, the same futile overemphasis on rebounding affected the Griz on the offensive end.
A big fat -17 on the glass was but a symptom of the disease in the Suns game, though-the Grizzlies (and this doesn’t happen much) just didn’t have the fire turned up high. Tony Allen was/is sick with a stomach virus, evidently, and he’s the major accelerant for said fire-but there are plenty other guys on the team who take up the motivational slack usually…but it was just a bit lacking this night.
A nice thing in common about the two games? Against two teams who can absolutely light it up from three, the Griz only gave up 8 from beyond the arc over the two games. Running guys off the 3pt line led to giving up a lot of paint points in both games, but giving up zero is great, giving up 2 instead of 3 is ok.
The horrible thing in common was, of course, the rebounding thing-after losing the battle of the boards so badly in PHX, it stood to reason that a next-night game a mile above sea level did not bode well for a good rebounding night. Aside from the rebounding aspect, however, the Griz played good defense against Denver-they held the Nugs to 41% from the field, and held Gallinari scoreless. Ty Lawson did not score until there were less than five minutes left in the game. Sure, they gave up 17 zillion (ok, leave off the zillion) offensive boards, but a good effort nonetheless.
OJ MAYOOOOOOOOOO. First time in a long time (forever?) that OJ has taken the team on his back and carried them to a victory. Yes, the dagger three was huge-but OJ (and Conley made a couple of these when he ran off six straight at one point) made plenty of shots *precisely* when the Griz needed it most. The bench overall was huge-49 total points, and some great hustle by the usual suspects, plus one not-as-usual suspect…
-Haddadi? yes, Haddadi! He got some time in the PHX game, and was not horrible (how bad can you be in 3.5 minutes?), but in the Denver game, he was as competent a backup center as the Griz could have requested for the game situation. A SWEET block at the rim, a nice dish, and only one foul in 13 minutes of game time. He may play himself into a position where even when ZBo comes back, he may be called upon in matchup situations.
-Dante Cunningham and Tony Allen. Two best bargain contracts in the NBA? Close, and certainly two of the top five or so. HUSTLE. IN ALL CAPS.
Bad news from the Denver game, as most likely already know-Rudy Gay apparently had reason to look a bit spaced out. He took a shot to the head and was evaluated for concussion, and will be re-evaluated on Monday. Best of luck Rudy, get and stay healthy, man.
Lakers on Tuesday-get ready, that’s gonna be a good one….