Last night, two of the league’s best defensive teams faced off in a race to score 75 points, and only one team crossed the finish line. The Bulls disrupted the Grizzlies’ offense inside like they do to everyone around the league. Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph, and Rudy Gay finished a combined 10/34 from the field, and had it not been for a big boost from an all-bench lineup — Jerryd Bayless, Wayne Ellington, Quincy Pondexter, Marreese Speights, and newly non-concussed Darrell Arthur — the Grizzlies looked like they were going to let the game get away from them.
Instead, after ending the first quarter trailing the Bulls 20–11, the Wayne Ellington that made 7 3’s against the Miami Heat last month showed up for a brief moment, hitting some big shots over the Bulls’ interior defense, and closing the gap. Led by the bench, the Grizzlies doubled up on Chicago in the 2nd quarter, scoring 28 points to Chicago’s 14.
From there on out, the Grizzlies would never again trail, ending up with a nine-point victory.
Here are some notes on the game.
- Tony Allen played like Tony Allen. After missing some time with a groin injury, and still playing his way into form this season after a big knee injury, Tony Allen finally came out and had a Tony Allen game, giving Marco Belinelli fits. It was good to see Tony come out and play his kind of game, the game of disruption and intensity that he does so well. Ugly basketball like this is where Tony Allen does his best work.
- The bench isn’t dead. The Grizzlies’ bench started hot and then dropped off a cliff, barely registering enough points to keep the Grizzlies in games. Last night, they appeared to reverse the trend, coming in for the frustrated starters and finding their own rhythm playing together. Usually Lionel Hollins will leave in a starter or two — usually one of either Marc Gasol or Zach Randolph — but last night he substituted the whole five-man squad, and it worked. It was interesting watching Marreese Speights and Darrell Arthur play together last night.
- Rudy Gay had a really bad first half. At one point he was 0–6 with 1 rebound and 3 turnovers. I’m sure a large part of it had to do with the way the Bulls were playing defense, but it was still hard to watch. His shots were missing big, he was shooting long jumpers early in possessions, and it seemed like he was determined to Kobe his way to a Grizzlies loss. Rudy finished with 12 points on 5 of 13 shooting, and didn’t attempt a single three-pointer. Quincy Pondexter was much more effective last night at the 3 spot.
- Mike Conley had 4 assists. And the first one of those four didn’t come until really late in the third quarter. Say what you will about the Bulls offense (or, clearly, lack thereof) but they do a masterful job on defense. If this had been a football game, the score would’ve been 11–6 or something crazy like that. That’s the way the Bulls play. The Grizzlies’ game thrives on assists from Conley and Gasol, and when their interior passing game is going, it’s beautiful to watch. Last night was not one of those nights.
All in all, a win is a win, and the Grizzlies showed some good things last night. They got down early and came back, the bench played well, and having a mostly-healthy Tony Allen is going to go a long way towards making this team a contender. And really, the uglier the game, the more likely this Grizzlies squad is to come out on top.
For the Bulls' side of the story, check out Blog a Bull.
Z-Bo finished with a double double. In other news, the sun rose in the east and not the west this morning. ↩