Well, take a deep breath, Grizzlies fans. For the Grizzlies to have been up by fifteen in the third, this game got really close, in large part due to the fact that Damien Lillard is awesome and Jerryd Bayless made a real bonehead move.
However, Jerryd Bayless also played a sizable role in the first and foremost of tonight’s lucky seven….
Thing one: 31 assists on 39 made FG’s. That’s darned near 80% of field goals assisted. Conley with…fifteen? HUH? WUT? Yep, fifteen assists. Jumping out of the gate with six in the first quarter helped him get there for sure, and one might say “well, the Grizzlies as a whole shot very well, so it was easy for him to get assists”. Well, not quite. If Conley doesn’t put them in spots they like and doesn’t time his passes well, no baskets. Chicken and egg. Bayless, for his part, shot about as well as Conley (which was not good-5 of 19 combined), but had six assists to only one turnover, and Conley only gave the ball away three times. Gotta figure any coach is gonna be satisfied with 23 ast 5 TO from his PG group.
Thing two: Hickson hit his first three shots, then went 0-7. Wes Matthews, noted Grizzly killer, went 3-10. Batum went 3-10. Sure, Aldridge and Lillard both went nutso-but when a team can hold Portland’s starters to such a dull roar, the chances of winning are good. Meyers Leonard is an impressively tough rookie, but the Blazers’ bench is just not up to snuff this season.
Thing three: Once again, the Grizzlies score 100 and win. As anyone who has read this site knows, I’m WAY into the 83-73 kind of victories-but games like this one where the Grizzlies score 102 on 51% shooting are imperative for the team to have confidence in its ability to score in quantity. The cliches are true-the game will slow down in the postseason, but there is a ubiquity (see what I did there?) of high-flying high-scoring teams in the West playoff bracket that will command the Grizzlies to be able to score.
Thing four: Ed Davis. Pretty easy to feel guilty about how little you’re missing Arthur, isn’t it? Don’t lie. Also not a lie is the statement that the Grizzlies sure could have used DA’s ability to vertically cover and recover on pick and rolls this game, however. Davis is long and pays attention-he doesn’t get caught ball-watching an inordinate amount-but having all four big men healthy is something the Grizzlies need to happen. 14 and 9 with three blocks (yeah, the box says two-but we all know that last goaltend was one of many bogus calls against the Griz).
Thing five: Mike Conley, again. Four steals this time…but at the price of Lillard going crazy. The result justifies the means, though. He got his steals by digging back and timing his swipes well. An excellent “example game” of how the Grizzlies’ schemes and attention to detail make them the defensive juggernaut they have become.
Thing six: Free throws. The Grizzlies’ FT shooting for the game was borderline nausea material at 21-31, but they made their last eight when the game was on the line. BIG deal, and another thing that the team will need to learn to do with regularity as the postseason approaches.
Thing seven: Zach Randolph, and getting out on the right foot on the road trip. ZBo’s 19 and 10 on 8-13 shooting was HUGE in his return from injury, and HUGE in helping the Grizzlies start out the most crucial road stretch of the season on a positive note. Gotta think that Portland still inspires Randolph to give a little bit extra, even after all this time.
A great start to the road trip, with a potential buzzsaw waiting in the Staples Center in just a few short hours. Will the Grizzlies be able to get adequate rest to put up with the showboating style of the
Floppers Clippers tomorrow?