With the shortened NBA season, and games and teams and match-ups blurring into one another, consistency is at a premium. Certainly no team will have it all year, and, really, even having it for a month at a time would be pretty damn impressive. Whoever can be steady enough to overcome injuries (everybody has or will have them), win sloppy games and avoid any drastic free-falls will have at better shot at merely making it to playoff time.
That's why sustained winning streaks, like the Memphis Grizzlies', who stretched theirs to four with a 93-87 victory over the New Orleans Hornets last night, no matter how they're come about, are important in this NBA season more-so than a normal one. It's just so much easier to have an off-night, or to be less prepared or less focused when the games start bleeding together, and the Grizzlies are sharing the load on a nightly basis, which makes the grind easier on everyone.
Yes, this four-game winning streak includes two wins over the Western Conference-worst Hornets and a Chicago Bulls team without MVP Derrick Rose, but hey, a streak's a streak, right? As I mentioned before, the regular season this year will be a battle of attrition. It's not who makes the playoffs, rather, who held on long enough to survive for the playoffs. These last four games, the Grizzlies have shared the burden, picked guys up on down nights, and, well, for the most part just shot better than their opponents.
The streak began with Rudy Gay and O.J. Mayo leading a relaxing win over the Knicks, who looked absolutely lost, on TNT. Memphis's True Shooting Percentage (which takes all shots - twos, threes and free throws - into consideration) was 53% compared to New York's 47%. Then, in their home win over New Orleans, Gay was again the leading scorer with the rest of the starting five scoring in double figures as well. This win, if you remember, was aided by a 37-point second quarter, which would help any team, but especially a sometimes offensively stagnant one like our Grizz.
On Monday's special Martin Luther King, Jr. Day noon game, sure, the Bulls played how you would expect the Bulls to play at noon without Derrick Rose, but for Memphis it was another game of strong all-around contributions, from Mike Conley's almost triple-double (20, 7 and 8) to Gay once again leading the team in scoring or Marc Gasol's efficient 19 and 10 double-double, it remained the guys that need to fill the void left by Zach Randolph stepping up and pitching in across the board.
This continued last night in New Orleans, where Gay was not quite himself but others picked up the scoring slack. From the tip, Gasol was a force with jumpers falling (10-of-14 shooting) and active rebounding and passing throughout. Conley dished ten assists, hit four threes and in the fourth, with the game closer than it felt and the Grizzlies in a bit of a lull, just looking to hang on, Mayo stepped in and drilled some tough outside jumpers, scoring 12 in the quarter and keeping the game out of reach for New Orleans.
Gasol. Gay. Conley. Mayo. It's nothing new or surprising, but with these guys collaborating well together, and the team as whole shooting the ball effectively (their True Shooting Percentage during this four-game span is 55.8%), and, yeah, getting a bit of a break in the schedule, this team should be winning ball games. The upcoming schedule -- Friday at Detroit and Saturday at home against the Kings before a brutal four-game West Coast trip that's been mentioned before -- suggests that the Grizzlies will, after this week, be put to the test something fierce again real soon.
But, as this season has already taught us, it's all just one big grind no matter how you slice it. None of it will be easy (though it sure seems parts could be harder than others). That's why a four-game winning streak, and the balance and efficiency which the Grizzlies have shown during it, is nothing to sneeze at. Every win counts the same come the end of April. With quality play, those should take care of themselves.