This was one of those games that a team can feed on for weeks. This win is one the Grizzlies can use to motivate themselves going forward. Sure, the Heat were without Dwyane Wade and Udonis Haslem missed the final quarter of the game after injuring his left foot in the third quarter, but this was the Miami Heat, the team the world hasn't stopped paying attention to since July 9th. No matter how you beat them, if its before they start packing it in near the end of the regular season, its going to be a special game and one that any team can feed off of.
And when you factor in the way they got it, this team is going to be so confident going forward. Blowing Miami out by 30 would have been more impressive than winning at the buzzer, but the Grizzlies didn't play anywhere close to their best game in this contest and they were still able to come up with the win. Memphis missed 10 of their 11 shots from three, which is normally the equalizer for the underdog, they had twice as many turnvors as Miami (12 to 6) and Rudy Gay, O.J. Mayo and Xavier Henry (who got his first career start in this game as O.J. was benched for being late to shootaround along with Zach Randolph) combined to shoot 7-of-29 from the field.
The Heat missed Wade, obviously. They only got to the line 12 times as a team and having another playmaker out there makes things way harder on opposing defenses. But other than the absence of Wade, Miami played some pretty good basketball, making this win even more impressive for the Grizzlies.
Miami Heat Recap: Peninsula is Mightier
LeBron James missed 12 of his 23 shots but finished with 29 points and 11 assists, executing beautifully while also mixing in the now expected forced jumpshot every now and again. Chris Bosh added 20 points and 10 rebounds on eight-of-14 shooting, with a lot of his baskets coming on wide open looks created by some screen action by Miami and late rotations by the Grizzlies. Bosh even banked in a three with about 30 seconds left in the game to make it a two-point game after Memphis had seemingly created enough separation with their five-point lead. LeBron followed that with a dunk in transition to tie the game at 95 off of a Rudy Gay turnover. LeBron's creativeness also brought out a 20 point, six three performance from Eddie House off the bench as he provided the scoring punch that Wade normally brings in an extremely efficient fashion.
Luckily for the Grizzlies, after going to O.J. Mayo and Mike Conley in clutch situations in recent games, Rudy Gay was the hero in this one. Mayo had a running floater in the lane to tie the game in the final three minutes and Conley had an easy lay-up that he created with dribble penetration that put the Grizzlies up five before the Heat's mini-surge but it was Gay that sealed the deal.
With 5.5 seconds left, the Grizzlies ran a simple in-bounds play with Gay throwing the ball into Marc Gasol, who was to toss it right back to Gay for him to decide the game. Gay received the handoff from Gasol with three seconds left, shook Big Z off of him and proceeded to drive to the basket with LeBron James on him. James forced him 15-feet away from the basket and when Gay pulled up for a pull-up fadeaway jumper at an odd angle, LeBron played as perfect of defense as you can play without getting called for a foul.
The result: a sweet J in the face of the game's best player with .01 seconds on the clock that splashed into the net as the buzzer went off. Gay unleashed his emotions with a violent fist pump and then turned to the Heat bench and stared the league's most flashy team's players in the eyes before sprinting to his bench to celebrate with his teammates. Gay finished with 15 and eight rebounds, but needed 13 shots to get there. That's a fairly mediocre night for Gay, but he was able to cap it off with a brilliant game-winner that will likely highlight the Grizzlies season all year long.
Though Gay was the savior, the best player in this game, at least for Memphis, was Zach Randolph. Darrell Arthur started the game in his place - and, by the way, he was excellent, scoring 14 points on seven-of-nine shooting with five rebounds (expect a post on him later this week ) - Randolph took over during the second half and controlled things downlow, which is exactly what I said Memphis needed to do to win this game. By taking advantage of Miami's interior weakness, Randolph was able to pace the game and grab some very important rebounds.
Z-Bo finished with 21 points on eight-of-14 shooting with 13 rebounds, six of which were on the offensive glass. Randolph is so, so good when he is motivated and whether or it was the benching or the fact that he was playing the Heat (or both), he really showed up tonight. If he can consistently produce like this, which is something we know he has the talent to do, while Gay and Mayo actually have "on" nights, this is a dangerous team.
Others may deny that the Grizzlies are a serious playoff contender, but if those people haven't caught on by now, they never will. This Memphis group is talented and when everybody is locked in, they can compete with any team in the league. The big win tonight isn't a bad mantle piece to point to when trying to convince haters that Memphis is for real, because they are.
Other game notes:
- Marc Gasol had a quiet performance, attempting just eight shots, but his 11 points and 11 rebounds were big and his ability to move the ball from the post was key for stretches. Gasol is so, so good and though its easy to lose track of his contributions on a night like this (not a great statline, Z-Bo dominates, game winner for Gay), lets not forget how critical Marc is to this team.
- O.J. Mayo's shooting slump is troubling. He's two-of-18 over the past two games and its not like Dwyane Wade was going all out on him defensively either. He didn't get a lot of burn because he didn't start, but six misses and only one make isn't good for someone as talented as O.J..
- It may be too early to judge, but it appears as if Xavier Henry's shot will not be a reliable offensive option, at least this season. His college three-point range is not translating to the NBA level (he's missed all 10 of his three-point attempts) and he is just 21-of-62 from the field on the season (34%). He has some other skills - he's a decent rebounder, moves the ball fairly well and was thought to be a defense-first kind of player in this league - but he will need that shot to fall for him to get playing time in Memphis' SG-SF heavy line-up.
- Solid game for Sam Young. 10 efficient points off the bench. More of this, please, Sam.
- If the Heat are without Haslem for any extended period of time, they are going to suffer on both ends of the floor. Haslem is Miami's best interior defender and rebounder and his touch from the mid-range makes it hard for defenses to help on Wade and James when they drive. Hopefully he isn't out for long, because that's a big loss for Miami.