It started out looking like the Grizzlies were going to be playing another one of their trademark, grind-it-out, low-scoring games. In the first quarter, no one could guard John Salmons (lookin' at you, Rudy Gay) and he scored 10 points. The Grizzlies headed into the second trailing 23-22 to a Kings team that was passing the ball well and getting out in transition — the same way everybody else in the league has been causing problems for the Griz lately.
In the second quarter, things got back on track a little bit. Salmons was on the bench until there were only 4 minutes left in the half, and he only scored 3 points before the break. As the second quarter drew to a close, the Grizzlies finally started to get some separation from the Kings, extending their lead from 41-38 to 51-45 in the closing minutes of the half by getting defensive rebounds off Kings misses.
And then there was the third quarter. At halftime it was 51-45 Grizzlies. By the end of the next twelve minutes of basketball, the Grizzlies were leading 87-65. Rudy Gay was having a terrible shooting night, seemingly missing everything he took on the offensive end, but it seemed like he could tell he didn't have it and was trying to do other things after a few misses early in the third. Things really started to turn around for the Grizzlies when Sacramento called a timeout at the 8:29 mark. Out of the timeout, DeMarcus Cousins — who had a pretty decent game last night, racking up 10-8 and an assist, but couldn't keep his double-double streak alive matching up with Marc Gasol1 — missed a shot, and on the other end, Zach Randolph made his second three-pointer of the year.
Which, every time it happens, reminds me of this magical Grizzlies moment:
Anyways, Randolph's 3 seemed to inspire Wayne Ellington to do some three-point shooting of his own, and after finding a cutting Tony Allen for an easy layup, Ellington caught fire and scored ten straight Memphis points to end the third.
He wasn't done there, though. Going into the fourth quarter leading by 22, the Grizzlies continued to hit every. single. shot. they. took. Ellington ended up scoring nine more points. Finally, with 3:24 left in the game, leading 108-75, Lionel thought it was safe to put in rookie guard Tony Wroten.
Wroten looked pretty good, all things considered. He got into the lane and scored his first-ever NBA bucket (which, congrats on that). He made some good passes for easy layups and dunks. He only got credited with one assist, but he had another great pass to Darrell Arthur that was broken up by a Jimmer Fredette foul. (Side note: still not crazy about the idea of naming my future son "Jimmer.")
The most important thing to take away from this game is that (well, excluding the fact that the Kings aren't very good; they've actually played pretty well at home this year, with a 10-8 home record) when the Grizzlies get somebody shooting well from outside, the whole team plays better. Floor spacing improves, defenses stop packing the paint, the ball starts moving around better to find the open man, everything gets better. Even when a guy like Rudy Gay is having a bad night, outside scoring gets the Grizzlies winning big.
The way this game played out was very similar to the Grizzlies' wins over the Miami Heat and New York Knicks in November: close early, and then the Grizzlies offense started heating up and the opponent couldn't keep up, getting frustrated by Griz rebounding on both ends and lockdown defense. Obviously, the Kings aren't as good as the Heat and the Knicks, but that doesn't matter: I'm just happy to see that the Grizzlies, despite the struggles they've been having, are still capable of putting that kind of beatdown on somebody. I'm happy to see that they can still play at that high level, even if it's against a team that's not great. After all, that was the first time the Grizzlies have scored more than 110 points all season. I'd like to see more of that. And I'm okay if Wayne Ellington wants to score them all from 28 feet out, as long as he's feeling it.
If you want to hear the Kings side of the story, check out Sactown Royalty.
I'm glad Cousins didn't end up matched up with Z-Bo very much. Love Z-Bo to death, but Cousins is quicker, and Z-Bo can't stop him from scoring in the restricted area without fouling him. Gasol was able to frustrate him much more than Randolph. ↩