The Memphis Grizzlies and Los Angeles Clippers will head back to L.A. for Game Three tied up in this best-of-seven affair. Both teams have a right to be understandably disappointed in this; the Clippers for the chance at stealing both games in Memphis, the Grizz, well, you know why. But the more and more Game One disappears in the rearview mirror, and with the 105-98 Game Two win freshly minted for our analytical pleasure, it feels as though the Grizzlies have righted the ship for the time being. In the playoffs, though, each game is its own box of untapped momentum; the carry-overs are often small and evaporate along with pre-game story lines. But this one certainly felt different than its Game One counterpart.
Game Two was supposed to be the one where we would see if Memphis had recovered from their historical collapse or if the mind-bending statistics of Sunday night would haunt them like spirit numbers, quietly hovering above the floor, whispering things about Reggie Evans and Nick Young. What Game Two actually was, though, became the Grizzlies getting back to what brought them here.
After the jump, the Game Two difference.
Memphis started this one out with a lot of head-shaking in regards to their current level of play. Of course, because of what happened on Sunday, this could easily have been misconstrued as a team-wide flashback, but in reality they just started out a bit flat on both ends of the floor. A few buckets by Zach Randolph seemed to settle everyone down, and from there the game turned into a choppy, flow-less game of basketball. Good motion or displays of skills came in bursts in the second and third quarters, surrounded by lots of attempts from seemingly everyone trying to out-muscle one another with physical play on the inside. This is the sort of series where establishing yourself as the biggest badass on the floor actually matters.
Blake Griffin is getting beaten up by the Grizzlies' frontline, but he did not waver in his attacks to the rim. His post game may definitely not be polished quite yet, but he does create problems with his quickness and athleticism when he just straight up attacks at Randolph or anyone else. It will be interesting to see whether or not coach Lionel Hollins decides to adjust their defense in any way, though I wouldn't be concerned so much with Griffin taking over a game completely from the block as I am with fouls piling up. On the Grizzlies' side, they won this game in large part due to Marc Gasol, Marreese Speights and Randolph establishing the paint as their property, and, even when things were ugly offensively, being available and in position for put-backs and dishes.
Rudy Gay too was a sustaining force throughout this game, scoring when needed and not allowing the Clippers to get away with putting a smaller man on him; Gay was wise in posting up on a few occasions and drawing fouls thanks to his size. Tony Allen did Tony Allen things while mixing in a few jumpers as well -- along with T.A.'s three steals and two blocks, the Grizzlies as a team forced 20 turnovers and grabbed 13 steals in this one.
The game was still essentially a toss-up in the fourth until the Grizzlies got the one big jolt they needed in O.J. Mayo. In the span of roughly two minutes, Mayo got hot in a hurry, drilling two three-pointers and scoring eight points while turning a four-point lead into a nine-point advantage in that span of time; it was a lead that Memphis wouldn't relinquish this go around.
So, what do we make of the Grizzlies now? Should we be disappointed that, for most of these first two games they have looked like the better all-around team, yet head to Los Angeles with a split? Or should we be happy to have salvaged our game in time to turn this series away from disaster? I think the answer is more to this point: maybe the Grizzlies just can't have nice things, rather, too many nice things. Game One was a barrage of threes that happened so fast it didn't seem to matter how it was happening, how it wasn't fitting with the personality Memphis has carved for itself, because surely, we thought, the Grizzlies were going to get away with it anyway. Everything went right until it didn't, and by that time it was too late to try and pick up all the shattered pieces of such a collapse.
What we might be able to deduce now and once again, with the rosy frames a win provides, is that the Grizzlies are simply a better team when they're doing a limited number of things right as opposed to the all-emcompassing behemoth they looked to be on Sunday night. The Grizzlies only made two triples last night (compared to 11 in Game One), but they were Mayo's timely daggers in the fourth. They attempted 19 more free throws than the Clippers; they scored 20 fast break points to L.A.'s six; they made the game rough and disjointed; they made it theirs.
And still, nine times out of ten they'll hang on to a game like Game One, too. But didn't last night just feel more in their wheelhouse? It was closer throughout, Chris Paul constantly seemed to be on the verge of going bonkers, but in the end the Grizzlies kept plodding away, kept rebounding and scoring by any means necessary, and when it mattered most, they figured out a way to get the separation they needed to hang on. The Grizzlies in Game Two were not perfect, nor were they as aesthetically or other-worldly-pleasing as they were Sunday, but they fell back into themselves again and looked more comfortable for it. In the playoffs it doesn't matter how a team wins so long as they do. But in the Grizzlies case, the sign of success is somewhat clear: The messier it looks amidst the chaos, the better they'll probably be.
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