The Grizzlies built upon their win over Maccabi Haifa the last time out, making it two in a row with a 102-99 triumph over the Milwaukee Bucks at home tonight. The injury-plagued Bucks sat out Ersan Ilyasova, Carlos Delfino, Zaza Pachulia, Gary Neal and Ekpe Udoh. Meanwhile, the Grizzlies held out Zach Randolph, Tayshaun Prince, Kosta Koufos and Mike Miller.
Tonight's game was pretty enjoyable, and the Grizzlies had their share of offensive highlights. We could gloss over Jerryd Bayless' alley-oop dunk, Marc Gasol's no-look pass while leading the fast break or even Jon Leuer's one-handed alley-oop layup (because Jon Leuer). There's no question about it, though – we have to start with this.
THAT'S RIGHT. QUINCY PONDEXTER STUFFED ONE ON JOHN HENSON. THIS JOHN HENSON (pictured left).
By the way, if we're going to talk about tonight's game, we have to start with Quincy Pondexter. He led all scorers with 24 points (17 in the first half), shooting a squeaky clean 64.3% (9/14) from the field and 80.0% (4/5) from the charity stripe. Perhaps the most interesting narrative from tonight was how he scored those points. While he was almost strictly a corner three specialist last season (with the occasional backdoor cut mixed in), little of that happened tonight. QPon didn't attempt a three-pointer until there was 3:17 left the second quarter, and attempted "just" 5 threes, making two.
Instead, QPon did a lot of his damage off the dribble. His first shot of the game was a pull-up jumper in midrange after pump faking from behind the arc, and many of his scoring opportunities came from him driving to the rim (often using the pump fake from three, taking advantage of his reputation as a shooter. He went 6-6 on shots at the rim, and that's not including the fouls he drew on layup attempts (two by my count, not including the and-one layup). Preseason is the time to experiment, and Pondexter is obviously looking at expanding his game to become a better all-around scorer. If he can become even a semi-consistent scoring threat by putting the ball on the floor (and indications from tonight, for all they're worth, are that he can), it'll give the Grizzlies a nice scoring boost from their wings.
There was plenty to like from the rest of the team as well. Marc Gasol shot just 31.3% (6/15), but hit 8 of his 10 free throws for 18 points and threw in six rebounds and seven assists while looking dominant against second-year Bucks big man John Henson. Jerryd Bayless also scored 18, shooting 46.2% (6/13) and continuing to look like a strong off-ball weapon for us. Mike Conley added 17 points and three steals, also scoring a crucial and-one layup late in the game that allowed the Grizzlies to claim the lead for good.
The Grizzlies had the game under control for most of the first three periods. They held leads of 9, 5 and 6 points after each of the first three quarters respectively, and while the Bucks did manage to bring it to a tie here and there, the Grizzlies were always able to rebuild a decent advantage quickly.
However, there was some late-game drama. Down 9 with 6:17 remaining in the fourth, the Bucks were able to chip away at the Grizzlies' lead with multiple buckets from both Brandon Knight and Khris Middleton. They took a one point lead with 2:59 left, and kept it close until the end of the game. It took back-to-back and-one layups from Gasol and Conley for the Grizzlies to reclaim the lead, and then Bayless iced the game by making four free throws.
- Jon Leuer played well off of the bench, scoring 8 points on 4 of 6 shooting. That midrange game is just awesome. He'd probably have a nice role on the bench if he wasn't competing with Ed Davis.
- Ed Davis and Tony Allen both shot 20.0%, Davis going 1-5 and Allen going 2-10. Davis looked awkward on his hook shots again, but I liked the aggressiveness of Allen on his backdoor cuts. Also: Grindfather hit a three! (Grindfath3r?)
- Dave Joerger tinkered with his lineups some, including a funky Conley/Calathes/Bayless/Leuer/Gasol group. The lack of size is kind of concerning, but it was fun to watch on offense. Conley and Bayless playing off-ball with Calathes handling worked really well in my opinion. I don't imagine we'll see much of this lineup in the regular season, though.
- Notes about the Bucks: Giannis Antetokounmpo had a couple of nice dunks. As much as I still like him, tonight served as a reminder that John Henson is really raw and has work ahead of him. Brandon Knight, Khris Middleton and O.J. Mayo all looked nice today, hitting important jumpers and generally scoring well. LARRY SANDERS! didn't block a shot tonight...?
The Grizzlies are out to Orlando to face the Magic in their next game. That'll be this Friday (October 18th) at 7:00 PM ET. Go Grizz!