First, let me say that in the Grizzlies 102-96 win over the Los Angeles Lakers last night, there were moments where I looked at this team and legitimately thought, "We can win the title this year." And truth be told, it's been some time since that thought raced through my mind. Like, say, prior to the start of this season, maybe?
I don't want to go overboard here, as that's generally not my way, but I do think that if "last night's team" shows up more times than not, well, we're going to be tough for anyone to beat.
Forever we've been wondering what a complete Grizzlies team would look like. Well, we got a taste of just that in the Grizzlies win over the Lakers last night. Defensive intensity, offensive sets, inside-outside game, great effort from the bench, limited 3-point attempts, etc. Just a great effort.
And, really, most of the credit does have to go to the bench, who came up huge. Of course we're not going to see Zach Randolph coming off the bench on a nightly basis, but it went beyond just Z-Bo's double-double. O.J. Mayo was fantastic, scoring 16 points in 20 minutes, while Hamed Haddadi went for 10 points and 6 rebounds in 13 minutes, playing a key role as Marc Gasol found himself in a little, how do we put it, Andrew Bynum trouble. Our bench outscored the Lakers bench 41-9. Just, wow.
Of course the fact that we shot just 10 free throws, as opposed to the Lakers and their 30 attempts from the line stands out as a bit of a, well, issue, but last night the foul-line disparity really didn't stand out as much as it did when last we met the Lakers (at home, nonetheless). It's just become a bit of our identity to settle for jumpers in certain cases or not to force the issue in the lane -- there were some "missed calls" last night, but nothing worth complaining about.
Rudy Gay had a nice smooth offensive game, especially in the first half. He was creating off the dribble and even leaning into some nice mid-range jumpers. Though, there was a moment in the first quarter where it looked like we might be in for a long night, when the Grizzlies were on a 3-on-2 fastbreak and for some reason Gay decided to pull up from the left side and shoot a three. It was one of those, "what the hell is this guy thinking?" moments. That's not our identity, to shoot the lights out, so when we're given an opportunity to get out on the break like that we need to finish at the rim. It's no wonder we only get to the line so few times each game, no? Just something to think about. Still, good game by Gay.
All-in-all, there was little worth complaining about from last night's game. Like I said earlier, we looked "complete," which is great. It's been along time coming. But, with that said, I think we have to declare that we can't complain anymore about this team finding it's rhythm. There, we found it. Now, we need to build off of it. I'm not saying that every game from here on out is going to be as fluid as last night's game, but now that we've found what we were looking for, there's no more complaining.
Of note: Gilbert Arenas with a DNP-CD last night. Remember, he still needs to work himself into game shape. Give it time.
For more on the Lakers: Silver Screen and Roll
Box Score: Grizzlies vs Lakers boxscore
Next up: Canis Hoopus