It's strange to say, but despite the near 4th-quarter collapse, last night's game was rather, dare I say, pretty? Well, pretty by our standards.
Sure, we turned the ball over 18 times to just 10 for the Clippers, but aside from a few boneheaded mistakes, the Grizzlies played a real fluid game. Especially for the first three-and-a-half quarters. But with the 94-85 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers, we know officially hold the tag as the hottest team in the NBA. Wear it proud, gents.
Having won 8 of our last 10, we've now moved to within a half game of the Clippers for 4th place in the Western Conference, which as you know means home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. I know facing the Clippers in a 7-game series is no easy task, but can you imagine what boost we'd get knowing that we could do so with 4 home games? That would help us sleep a little easier at night, wouldn't it?
Let's talk about the keys to last night game, shall we?
First of all, I want to give a big shout out to Marc Gasol, who really displayed "Grit 'N Grind" on both ends of the court, even with that phantom offensive foul call in the 3rd quarter. Can anyone else make sense of that call, by the way? Just atrocious. But, let's not dwell on that. Let's focus on the positives, namely how Gasol has done an excellent job of developing a high-post passing game. When bigger teams, like the Clippers, push him out of the box he's been fantastic in recognizing the cutters in the lane and finding the baseline options. Last night he had 7 assists, some of which we just fantastic feeds. Hopefully this is something he'll continue to recognize and develop even further. I made the comment last night, and I'm willing to stand by it, but at times Gasol's recognition of the lane is so crisp and precise that he actually becomes the second best passer on the court (at least, on our team) at a given moment. And when Mike Conley isn't in there, hell, he's close to being our best option.
O.J. Mayo played another solid game, with his late-game recognition of the lane leading to a Rudy Gay game-clinching dunk, along with his 3-point shooting which is starting to become a big help in stretching the floor. All-in-all, very good game for Mayo. And I say that knowing he had a few "dumb moments" at the end of the game, which led to the Clippers hanging around.
In all, the Grizzlies played to their strengths and continued to show toughness even as our "tough guy" leader Tony Allen remained out with a bum lip. Beating the Clippers on the boards, making Blake Griffin look studly, but not out-of-this-world-ly, and pushing the Clips into a discomfort level on offense, probably taking more outside jumpers than they would have liked, is exactly what we call Grizzlies basketball.
Now, as for what I didn't like from last night... Let's talk about Rudy Gay, shall we? Offensively, he was OK. He scored 16 points (meh) on 10 shots. He got to the line four time, which isn't enough, and took four threes, which is far too many. It's funny to think that if he could only make the mental adjustments to his game, the numbers would surely follow. But as long as he continues to pull up and take long jumpers, we're going to have good reason to complain. The other issue I had with Rudy was that he was sloppy with the basketball. Obviously, 6 turnovers is far too many. He needs to do a better job, play smarter, on/with the ball. I know the Clippers are a super active team and play strong perimeter defense -- they really close the passing lanes well -- but 6 turnovers is far too many. Period.
Same goes for Zach Randolph who had his sloppy moments. But, as long as he continues to put up double-doubles, we can almost look past the 4 turnovers. On the plus, Z-Bo got in 30 minutes after a somewhat scary moment yesterday afternoon where he was involved in a car accident. All seems well -- which was evident once he took a few pull-up threes in the third quarter. Yep, he's OK!
In the end, it was a big win for the Grizzlies who are rolling right now, winning 8 of their last 10 games. We're within striking distance of the 4th spot in the playoff hunt and if we can get past the next two games (back-to-back set against Phoenix Suns and San Antonio Spurs starting on Wednesday) the schedule really starts to lighten up in our favor.
Let's go get that 4th seed!
For more on the Clippers, see: Clips Nation