Memphisreturns home in high spirits after surprising Dallas on their home court, only the second win in Dallas in franchise history. The win was sparked by the surprise start of Marc Gasol. Gasol dominated the game in ways most Grizzlies fans aren’t accustomed to seeing from the center position. Gasol cleaned the boards with 15 rebounds, held Tyson Chandler to an ineffective evening and even dished out 4 assists. Now if the Grizzlies can only get Zach Randolph back perhaps the pre-season excitement won’t be seen as fool’s gold to the local populace.
Minnesotaevened their record at 1-1 on the season as well with a 96-85 win at home over the Milwaukee Bucks following a one point heartbreaking loss to Sacramento on Opening night. The TWolves take to the road for the first time tonight and will be looking to continue their winning ways led by former Grizzlies draft pick Kevin Love leading the way. Love had 17 pts and 16 rebounds against the Bucks despite only shooting 3-13 from the floor. Michael Beasley, the former #2 pick that was so disappointing in Miami led Minnesota in scoring wtih 21 points and also had 10 rebounds.
Luke Ridnour has provided the TWolves with maturity at the point which the team desperately needed but once again Conley is going up against an older, slower PG that he should have no trouble driving past with his speed. Ridnour is not fleet of foot but he is very crafty and experienced. A natural leader Ridnour is one of those players teams don’t thing they need but can’t do without. Conley followed his impressive opening night stat line with a more traditional 8 pts and 6 assists on 3-11 shooting but is still attacking the rim and breaking down defenses which is what the team wants from Conley.
Wayne Ellington has been slow developing to the NBA game. The former UNC player has struggled with his shot and this season is starting slowly again hitting only 40% of his FG attempts. With Corey Brewer and Wesley Johnson sitting on the bench he may be feeling a little pressure to perform. O J Mayo found a way to get more involved in the offense with a 20 pt game against Dallas after a tough game against Atlanta in the opener. Mayo is hitting 45% of his 3 pt attempts which is very needed on the Grizzlies team. Mayo also showed some grit getting 4 rebounds and 2 assists while guarding Jason Kidd most of the evening. His steal at the end of the game sealed the Grizzlies win in Dallas.
Michael Beasley seems to be finding his groove after looking lost in Miami. Averaging 19 ppg and 8.5 rebounds is Beasley finding his groove or is this early season illusions? Only time will tell. Rudy Gay likewise has been surprising people with his play this season after signing a mega deal this summer. His 21 pts and 9 rebounds a night only partially tell the story of how Gay has improved. His defense is much better than previously shown and he has established himself as Memphis’ go-to guy when a big shot needs to be taken.
Power Forwards: Darrell ArthurvsKevin Love
Darrell Arthur has played well in substituting for injured Zach Randolph but will be tested mightily by Kevin Love. Kevin had 17 points and 16 rebounds against Milwaukee and is averaging 14 pts and 13 boards on the season. Love has struggled with his shot however hitting just under 30% on the season. Arthur has been a strong scorer but his rebounding numbers have been disappointing. If Z-Bo can play, and he did accompany the team to Dallas so he isn’t far off, then Memphis would again have the advantage but without his presence the TWolves power will likely be too much.
Marc Gasol did his best impression of Willis Reed when the center, expected to miss 2-4 weeks with an ankle sprain, played huge in Dallas with 15 rebounds and 10 points against the Mavs including a huge offensive board at the end of the game. Gasol’s return allowed the team to focus on what they do best. Gasol’s a multi-faceted center who uses his size and fierce determination to create plays on both sides of the court. Former Grizzlies center Darko Milicic has struggled this season after surprising many people by re-signing with Minnesota instead of returning to Europe to play.
Minnesota’s bench has been a huge positive for the team. Rookie Wesley Johnson has averaged 12.5 ppg so far this season and Anthony Tolliver had a a huge opening night and is averaging 10 ppg off the bench. Sebastian Telfair and Corey Brewer have also contributed well. Memphis’ bench has not played up to expectations yet but with Darrell Arthur in the starting lineup that is to be expected. Tony Allen showed the defensive intensity the team needs off the bench in Dallas after a disappointing opening night. Sam Young was quiet against Dallas after a big night against Atlanta. Xavier Henry has shown a lot of promise as well but until the starters get fully healthy the bench will continue to struggle every night.