Though this was the Celtics, whose crunch time scoring options are none other than Jeff Green and Jarred Sullinger, it was still nice to see the Griz get a win on the road, especially in a game where their normally dominant frontcourt (albeit a little less imposing with the loss of Marc Gasol) had an off night offensively.
A bad night from the starting bigs, and the plodding Grizzlies scored 100 points? I know it's hard to believe.
With a little bit of (Dave Joerger haters, block your ears!) up tempo play led by Mike Conley and some timely bench scoring, the Grizz were able to start fast in the first half (which has been a problem this year) and hold on in the second for the win.
Mike Conley, a hare among tortoises
It's really a strange a dichotomy with the Grizzlies; they have the slowest team in the NBA, plodding big men, and play at a snail's pace offensively, yet have perhaps the quickest and shiftiest (save Tony Parker) guard in the league in Mike Conley.
Much has been made about Dave Joerger's failed experiment to speed the Grizzlies up this season and the subsequent return to the slow it down, Grit n Grind style that characterized last year's team, but tonight, we may have seen a little bit of what the coach was talking about, especially in the first quarter.
It wasn't just fastbreak points either (though the Grizz did pot 13 of their 18 in the first quarter); the Grizzlies, and especially Mike Conley, had a lot of success on the secondary break, that sliver of precious time wedged in between the fast break and halfcourt offense.
Time and time again, Conley used his whole repertoire of hesitation dribbles and nimble footwork to get into the paint as he carved up the Celtics D before they had time to get set, finishing with 10 points and 3 dimes in the quarter on 5-6 shooting. He also used screens well early in the shot clock in first, taking advantage of the still-transitioning Boston D to find teammates and get the Celtics scrambling.
This is the kind of up-tempo play Joerger was talking about, not running up and down like the Warriors or Rockets, but taking advantage of the Grizzlies usually solid defense to create offense for quicker guys like Conley and Tony Allen, who also found himself with a few easy transition opportunities.
Not to focus too much on Conley, but the only silver lining of Gasol's injury could very well be the point guard's offensive growth, as Conley will need to shoulder more of the offensive load with Big Spain out.
Bayless loves Boston
Jerryd Bayless, everyone's favorite mercurial-irrational confidence guy, had a huge game against the C's, leading the Griz with 22 points off the bench just a few weeks after scoring 15 fourth quarter points the last time the two teams met.
The bench's recent struggles (see fourth quarter of Monday's Rockets-Grizz game if you don't value your sanity) have coincided with Bayless's, but like any good gunner, Bayless still came out firing in this one, scoring 11 points in eight minutes in the first half.
He followed that up with 11 more in the second, including 1-2 from the 3 pt line and some late FT's to ice the game.
He only finished with one assist on the night and had a few of his usual ball-watching lapses on D, but Bayless is in Memphis for his offensive spark on the bench, and that's exactly what he provided.
Overall, the Grizzlies' bench played a pretty solid game, as Ed Davis, Nick Calathes and Mike Miller chipped in for 23 points.
A good sign for Grizzlies fans was the play of Davis, who figures to get more minutes and a chance to prove himself with Gasol out. The rangy, athletic big was active on both ends, attacking the rim hard to score 11 points while (perhaps most notably) getting to the foul line six times. He also finished with seven rebounds in his 24 minutes, and looked engaged on both ends while finishing with the highest +/- (+13) of any player.
Calathes also looked much better in this one, controlling the offense beautifully and dishing out seven assists (against one turnover) in only 15 minutes of play.
Miller did his thing too, hitting 2-3 from downtown and playing passable defense when he wasn't getting pushed around by some of the Boston bigs down low.
The only time the bench got in trouble was again when they were left in a bit too long in the second quarter as the defense crumbled, which leads us to...
Missing Marc, Still
This is probably going to be a recurring theme in the next few weeks, but there were a few instances where the Grizz showed just how much they miss Gasol. First off, there was the run in the second quarter. Because of the domino effect of Kosta Koufos starting, the second unit is missing a true center and is often susceptible to penetration and strong inside play.
This was the case in the middle of the second quarter, as the mid range jumpers and contested runners of the first quarter turned into layups and open shots galore. Having Marc in there allows Koufos to solidify the bench, hardening the Grizzlies' interior D.
The second glaring example of the Grizzlies missing Gasol was during the Celtics late game surge, as Boston took advantage of the Grizzlies small-ball to cash in on putback after putback to stay alive.
There were also a few botched rotations in the second half, notably a Conley-Koufos (or it might have been Z-Bo) miscommunication that led to a wide-open putback dunk in the third quarter. Gasol is an expert communicator and defensive coach-on-the-floor, and these kinds of things don't tend to happen on his watch.
A Bad Day for the Bigs
Though Z-Bo finished with 13 points, the burly star struggled in this one, finishing 5-16, missing a few of his signature flip shots and just looking a bit out of sorts on the offensive end.
Koufos had even more trouble, finishing 3-11 for seven points while forcing up a bunch of shots. He even tried a patented Gasol 18 footer. Needless to say, Grizzlies fans didn't have the same hopeful feeling when it went up, and I don't think any of us were surprised when it didn't fall.
Credit Sullinger, Brandon Bass and Kris Humphries for their defense inside, but also chalk this one up to a simple off night for the big boys. The fact that the Grizzlies still managed to pull it out is a good sign moving forward.
- DNP for Jon Leuer, and another for Quincy Pondexter. Leuer looked bad against the Rockets, and Q-Pon hasn't looked right all the season. Not good for a guy who just signed a four year deal.
- Every time Tayshaun Prince takes a jumper, I think to myself: "there's no way there's ever been a flatter jumper in NBA history". Then, Ed Davis takes a shot.
- Kind of sad how exciting it is when the Grizz get a routine alley-oop, like the one from Calathes to Davis today. We love these guys, but they aren't exactly high flyers.
- Hate to say it, but Jarred Sullinger getting 23 and five offensive boards does not bode well for Memphis in the no-Gasol days ahead.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone! From the biggest Canadian Grizzlies fan around.