Life worked out for me to attend this game, and now I know why.
I needed to see in person, once again, just how mediocre-to-not-so-hot Blake Griffin is at every aspect of basketball besides dunking/scoring.
The Grizzlies almost gave away this game too, but they did not-how’d they try to give it away, and how’d they avoid doing so?
-A south-of-lethargic start to the game. A middle-school-level five-second violation by the Griz and a couple Clipper-style lobs to start the game, and I remarked to my wife “I’m really afraid this ain’t even gonna be close”. The defensive intensity (read: hand-slapping to a level that would make Bruce Bowen envious) of the Clippers to start the game was, to their credit, marvelous. How’d the Grizzlies get out of that wormhole? Mike Conley getting to the hoop once or twice, and the bench. Dante and Quincy, as usual. Speights hitting shots. Once the Grizzlies’ speed of execution picked up, and guys started moving on offense instead of loitering around at the 3-point line, the Griz had no problem scoring….and when they didn’t, they got to the free throw line to the tune of 31-for-39.
-Boneheaded, thoughtless turnovers and passes, and a lack of will to hold onto the ball in traffic. Sure, guys willingly got floor burns, but Rudy Gay in particular was a bit lackadaisical about making sure that possession was firmly in hand. A little too much hurryup on the fast break, with several guys (Allen, Speights, Gay, Mayo) throwing away opportunities to gain separation from the Clippers. How’d they flip that coin over? By forcing CP3 into five turnovers, and 21 total Flopper turnovers. Best part of the Griz’ defense? Thirteen steals (with a crazy addendum: Conley was the only starter without one)? No, it was getting big stops on the final possessions of Q2 and Q3. Up until the last couple seasons, a bucket (and somtimes an and-one) by the opposition to close a quarter has been a much-reviled Grizzly “tradition”. Not this night.
Player of the game? OJ, no doubt. He chased Paul around as much and as well as he could (although CP made the Grizzlies defense look really bad, ‘cuz he’s an amazing player), and his scoring (especially that three that was the team’s first of the game) was absolutely the difference in the game.
Steal of the game? ZBo’s theft of an inbounds pass later in the game when things were close. A super-aware play to make up for some of the Grizzlies’ earlier spaceouts.
This may have been the most physical game I’ve seen the Grizzlies play/endure-Deandre Jordan, in particular, looked like he should have been playing eleven men per team with pads on-but it showed that our Grizzlies fear no flopper.
Good news for Ralph Lawler-his “note” of today “noting” that the Grizzlies were 0-4 after losing the first game of a playoff series proved to be prescient….actually, that meant nothing, since the Clippers lost.
If only Blakie-blake could have picked up that sixth foul…I think the roof of FedEx Forum may have collapsed…