The more things change, the more they say the same.
Keeping with the franchise tradition, the Grizzlies lost the first game of the 2011-2012 season, just like they lost the first game of every season since 2000. In addition to being a Grizzlies' fan, I also occasionally moonlight as a Cleveland Indians' fan, and they share a similar problem; every year without fail after winning the Cy Young Award, the Indians' manage to crap the bed on Opening Day. If Justin Masterson or Ubaldo Jimenez manages to win it this upcoming season, I fully expect them to give up 10 runs on Opening Day in 2013. Therefore, it really shouldn't be surprised that the Grizzlies lost yet another Game 1, especially to a good team, but I can't lie, I pretty disappointed.
The game started well enough. In the first quarter, the Grizzlies appeared to be pretty much the same team that destroyed the Spurs last May. From then on, things got pretty ugly. There were turnovers galore, except the Grizzlies, who lead the league in steals last season, didn't seem to be able to create any of their own. Overall, this was a sloppy game. A few notes:
- If you're a believer in +/-, which I usually am, this game is even uglier. Newcomers Dante Cunningham (+3) and Quincy Pondexter (+7) were the only Grizzlies who managed to finish in the positive. On the other end, Zach Randolph (-16) and Jeremy Pargo (-12) were the worst offenders.
- Speaking of Zach, he looked nothing like the monster who obliterated the Spurs in the finals. In the game thread, Marcus commented that Zach looked lost on the floor. His rebounding (or lack thereof) was especially disconcerting. Every player has bad shooting nights, but rebounding mostly comes down to effort. This is not the Zach that we've grown used to in Memphis. As much as I love Rudy, for this Memphis team to succeed Zach has to be the best player. Our offense should always start and finish with #50.
- This is a bit random, but I really hate losing to a team that features 28 minutes of Matt Bonner. By all accounts, Bonner is a great guy and a hard worker, and I'll admit that he can be occasionally useful, but basically he's a 6"10, can't rebound, can't defend, and can only shoot 3's. Honestly, I'm not trying to be an ass, but Bonner should not be getting major minutes on a playoff team.
- Josh Selby didn't see any floor time. My best guess is that based on his strong performance in the preseason and his experience, Jeremy Pargo is more or less locked-in as the back-up point guard. Unless we go with a small line-up, Conley or Pargo suffers an injury, or Pargo is ineffective, I don't think we'll be seeing much of Josh Selby this season.
- I want to end on a positive, so I saved Rudy's performance for last. While he was definitely forcing things on offensive, overall Rudy was great tonight and showed no lingering signs of injury. More importantly, when Zach and Marc decided to take the night off on the boards, Rudy came through for us and lead the team with 10 rebounds. Finally, I can't mention Rudy without mentioning the monster dunk in the 4th. Rudy got the ball in the high post, and, taking advantage of the mismatch (he was being guarded by T.J. Ford), he drove to the hoop and posterized Matt Bonner. Nice play Rudy. Let's see more of that.
So yeah, we lost, but whatever. The Grizzlies tend to start slow, but we can't afford to waste time shaking off the rust. Next up are the Thunder, and I expect to see more from this team.