“Win the ones you’re supposed to win”. The Grizzlies haven’t been doing that as much as they should lately, but this game definitely fell into that cliched category.
Without Marc Gasol, a late scratch due to a nagging ankle injury, it surprised exactly no one that it was a bit of a tough outing for the Grizzlies….and then….
Dante Cunningham, and then also Dante Cunningham. Using a phrase like “took up the slack” to describe Dante’s game this night is like using the phrase “decent dribbler” to describe Bob Cousy. As much as Cunningham is a somewhat Battier-esque “it’s not in the numbers” player, this game was about the numbers. Eleven points and fourteen GINORMOUS rebounds. Spring-loaded spider, I tell ya. He’s a bit more talented than some might realize, too-it’s not all hustle, although energy will always be his calling card. Watch his positioning on defense, and his ability to disappear on offense until he’s needed. That means he listens to Hollins regarding spacing.
Aside from Dante’s nothing-short-of-spectacular performance, the things that allowed the Griz to keep the Wolves under thumb:
-Largely, but not entirely, due to Cunningham, a nice +9 on the glass. The Wolves had 7 offensive rebounds in Q1, and only five over the last 36 minutes. Positioning and energy (and maybe a foot to the posterior from Hollins) is how this happened, and it applied to the whole team-OJ had some key boards (one that frustrated Mr. Entitlement into a weird retaliation-type foul), Speights made his contribution, and ZBo had a well-timed board or two.
-25 of 28 from the line, with plus-15 FTA’s and plus-14 FTM. Rudy Gay with a very pleasing 7-7, and those seven FT’s…that’s right, the difference in the game. No, it’s not that simple-but the coincidence is cool. Zero correlation though. The fact that the Grizzlies did make every attempt to take advantage that the Wolves no longer have Oleksiy Pech…wait, never mind about that. The Griz took advantage of the Wolves’ having not one single good lane defender, bottom line. Plenty loose-ball fouls due to the Grizzlies’ overwhelming energy on the boards.
-Forcing the Wolves into bad shots, which is not exactly the hardest task an NBA player might face, but it’s easy to be lazy when playing a team like MIN who can be baited into launching ill-advised looks. Aside from Love’s prowess from inside and outside, and Wayne Elllington somehow developing a driving ability, the Grizzlies were able to shut the Wolves down on offense. Holding any team under 39% is a good defensive outing. Way to go Grizz.
UPDATE: 3SOB.com’s Lee Eric Smith got post game comments from the players. Check ‘em out!
A couple of blissful days off for the team, and a HUUUUGGGEE game with the Rockets in Houston Friday. Still no Lowry, but the Rockets are still very much a dangerous and hungry team.