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The Griz won the bellwether 3rd quarter and shot a blistering 55% from the field for the game, but it didn’t matter tonight as the Spurs bench scored 62 points in taking down the Griz, who now sit at 4-12. The Griz bench produced just 4 points in comparison. Yes, only a measly 4. Of course, the Spurs “bench” consisted of Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili. It was the first game since the New York game seven games ago that the Griz played a team that wasn’t missing one of their stars, as Tony Parker returned tonight, but Pop held him out of the starting lineup and limited his minutes.

The Griz played better than they have the last few games, but just didn’t have enough defensive stops, nor did OJ and Rudy have enough offensive help from their teammates, to have a chance to win the game. Follow me below the fold

4 things on my mind tonight after this game:

Bench

62 to 4. Can a team ever win with a bench point difference of that magnitude? I don’t think so. But lets put it in perspective. The Spurs bench consisted of 2 all-star’s. The Griz bench consisted of Lowry, Ross, Hak, Arthur, and Jaric. If those 5 played any 5 players you can cobble together from any team, and they might not win. They probably won’t win. But the Spurs reserves also played about 106 minutes (from my quick addition) and the Griz reserves only played around 60 minutes. A considerable difference. The Spurs are bringing 2 stud players back from injury slowly and developing a bench for later in the season. The Grizzlies are playing their star players to death in order to win any games possible (Rudy and Mayo both played like 562 minutes tonight, bringing their season total somewhere in the 10 million).

I also think the bench was hurt tonight by having Darko start and Arthur come off the bench. Arthur has been bad lately. Tonight him and Hak both were bad, forcing Ivy to play Rudy at the 4 when Gasol and Darko needed a break. Remember in training camp when Rudy was asked about playing the 4 and said something like he would only play there if the other guys weren’t playing good enough. The other guys aren’t playing good enough. In fact, it looks like Arthur has hit the rookie wall earlier than most.

How can the Griz improve their bench production? I’m not sure. If Hak doesn’t have a good scoring game, there isn’t much hope. Lowry has been looking to pass more lately, not taking shots (particularly contested layups) that he would normally take. So with Lowry and Ross being the main two bench players beside Hak, that is more defense than offense, so more point production probably won’t magically start happening anytime soon.

However, according to 82games, our bench has been better than our starters overall this season (link). That will surpise most Griz fans.

OJ and Rudy = Our whole offense

OJ was amazing again tonight. Scoring off some crazy jumpers. Some off of screens, some off the dribble. His trajectory on his jumpshot blows me away it is so pretty. There were stretches tonight when he was unguardable, even by Bruce Bowen. Sometimes I just don’t understand how he creates enough room to get a shot off against a bigger defender right in his grill. He also finished with 4 assists due to some great drive and dishes to Darko and others. He would have had more assists on those drives if Gasol could make a layup. He showed better than advertised vision on his drive and dishes (speaking to those against him playing PG….hahaha). Mayo’s defense wasn’t all-world tonight, but I am particularly struck by one play where he forced Manu to go the opposite direction than he wanted to on a pick and roll, then stuck his hand out and got the steal to go coast-to-coast. If it wasn’t for our record and market size, Mayo would have rookie of the year locked up.

OJ played some PG tonight and surprisingly it was with Conley AND Lowry on the court. Weird. With the game winding down and the Griz needing points in a hurry, OJ brought the ball down the court so he could create. In the meantime Conley and Lowry stood in the corners. Oh boy…..not sure that having those 2 in the corners does much for us, considering their outside shots (although Conley shot good again tonight). To be fair, the move to play all 3 guards was to adjust to the Spurs lineup and get Lowry on Mason, who played him better than Conley (Mason went off in the 3rd quarter). So with all 3 guards on the court, Mayo guarded Hill or Manu, whoever was playing SF, Lowry guarded Mason and Conley guarded Mason. It wasn’t particularly effective.

Rudy had an up and down game, with some really bad defensive lapses where his guy seemingly scored at will. On offense, he was up and down too, taking some bad shots. But he is still, along with OJ, the only other player to be able to consistently create his own scoring opportunity. His best plays was where he was aggressive in taking the ball to the hole and using his length to get past Finley and scoop in a finger roll layup.

In total, Rudy and OJ were a combined 24 for 37, meaning the rest of the team was 18 for 40. I’d like our offense to be more varied and even things out. Going through Gasol more would be wise (he had some good moves tonight), but in general relying too much on our other guys on offense is just a short term disaster waiting to happen. Maybe it will help in the long term, but too many shots for guys not named OJ or Rudy will probably keep us down by double digits.

Darko and Marc should be our starting frontcourt

I’m ready to say Darko should stay our starting PF, even when not playing Tim Duncan. I know it will hurt our bench, but he is playing better than Arthur right now. I also want to mention the entertaining nature of having Gasol and Oberto pound each other. Not sure if they just are familiar with each other from international play or don’t like each other, but in the 1st half, every time down the court, they were pushing and shoving for the spot on the court each wanted. I love Gasol’s mean attitude.

Rumored trade, shot down on Portland broadcast

Hat tip to GrizzledGrizFan who let us know that on the Portland broadcast, they shot down the rumored Conley for Outlaw (and spare parts) trade. Not surprising. After the yahoo report originally went up, it was quickly modified to include a disclaimer from Portland sources. Then they quickly dismiss it on their own TV. The Blazers are playing good and don’t want these type of things over their heads. Trade rumors are for teams on the down, not team on the up-and-up.

This trade has been one branded about for a while now. Not sure what made it so important to talk about today. If the trade did happen (and it won’t), there would be two quick situations that would be debated in griz-land. Can Mayo play full time PG? Can Outlaw play full time PF? As for Outlaw at PF, I am optimistic he could. His stats at PF look good on 82games. Better PER, opponents have worse PER, scores just as much, rebounds better at PF than at SF. The downside is his FG% goes down and his fouls go way up.

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