…And with two games in Los Angeles comin’ right up. Whoof.
Two games, almost totally dissimilar, except for the darned result.
Well, what’s happening here?Five items of note over the two games:
-Gilbert Arenas is no Allen Iverson, and that’s a good thing. It’s no surprise that he was able to work so well with Gasol on the p-n-r, since Gasol is so adept at it-but he was able to see two passes ahead (fitting right into the high-low two-bigs play run so effectively so many times by the Grizzlies), and was obviously still holding back/tentative a little bit. Strange that a ten-year vet could have first-game-back nerves, but he did. Permissible. Nice to see him get a couple steals right out of the gate-as we suspected, the passing-lane game of the Grizz’ perimeter defense will be easy for him to pick up, although that wasn’t necessarily how the steals came. Safe to say that his play tonight was no worse than Pargo or Selby would have done, and his work in being able to execute the offense was encouraging if slightly spotty.
-ZBo still has some distace to go. First half of the POR game, 5-5. Second half, 0-5. Conditioning was going to be an issue, we knew, and such issue is coming to fruition. He’s shying away from contact less, but the timing of his “leaps” is still off and he’s just getting his game back on. It will come, but it’s not there yet.The perimeter shot isn’t yet as dependable as it needs to be to draw defenders to him, and that’s key. Two games in LA will both be nightmare matchups for Randolph, and major tests of his recovery. He acquitted himself fairly well against the Kings, but the athleticism of guys like Jason Thompson (and Bynum, Gasol, Griffin, et. al.) will always always make the game tougher for him.
-Marc Gasol is a rockstar. The end. Yes, he’s had a few bad games over the season, but his willingness to be the, uh, “center” of the team on offense as well as defense is admirable, and one will not find a better example of “earning that contract”. His spacing on offense, unbelievably, still seems to be improving, and he’s going to the hoop strong (ex: that dunk over Pryzbilla).
-Starters: All a positive +/- against Portland. Bench? All negative (the SAC game was so darned bad that it was all just a total mess). Yes, this stat is useless-but this illustrates a pretty clear division in this game. It was wonderful to see Tony Allen finally get over 30 minutes of game time (methinks the knees have something to do with his reduced minutes of late, but that is a totally unfounded theory emanating from my empty head), and his energy and playmaking were just what one expects from him. It’s hard to lay the crazy game Marcus Thornton had on TA….but he is supposed to be the team’s fireman…and could not put out the fire. OJ has had a couple of awful shooting games, and one must worry whether the arrival of Arenas will put the whispers back in his head about Hollins’ and the team’s opinion of and intentions regarding him.
-Body language, starting with the man responsible for some rather profane body language over the years, Rudy Gay. He’s not out to lunch, but the POR game was a definite regression for him. Like with OJ, one can hope that the larger stage of Staples Center will provide him with some nice motivation, but we’ll see. Steady contributions from Gay will be essential as the playoffs approach, and Gay must make his mark near the basket and on the perimeter. The team looks tired, bottom line. Every team is looking tired over this crazily compressed season, and one must wonder if the Griz burned too many matches coming out of the allstar break.
This is about the time when Hollins needs to appropriate a favorite Vince Lombardi line, and use it. Every. Single. Day.
“gentlemen, today we begin the big push”.
There is much work to be done.