Grizzlies snap a 6 road game losing streak - punctuate March with positivity.
In a not-so-typical yet familiar fashion the Memphis Grizzlies dispelled a pesky Minnesota Twolves team on Saturday night. Amidst some struggling from the usual suspects, the Griz got a second half boost from the bench (and it wasn't Jarryd Bayless) and built a solid lead that would keep the starters benched/rested until 4:38 left in the game.
It was the usual lull-your-opponent-to-sleep method we've seen the Grizzlies use many a time this season. Perhaps we're seeing the compounding effects of a fourth consecutive weekend of B2Bs, but for much of this game the Grizz struggled to find any resemblance of athletic rhythm. For that matter both teams looked disjointed - as if they each game planned for each other and then at the last second switched out the blueprints.
No doubt that Minnesota missing Nikolai Pekovic changed up a few of their plans. After a first quarter that saw good fortune smile upon the Twolves and saw the Grizz repeatedly get struck by lightning, Marc Gasol and the inside game took advantage of mismatches and started pushing the team into gear by getting in crisper passes, more decisive moves and directing traffic across the key. Timely sort of stuff considering Zbo wasn't quite looking right (in spite of his 'comeback' last night) and our perimeter offense outside of Mike Conley (Bayless and Pondexter) could not buy a basket. We saw Gasol and Conley basically will this team back into the game after giving up 30 pts in the 1st quarter and letting several Twolves start to get hot. Sloppity slop closing out the 2nd quarter by letting Rubio blow through the paint for a last second layup. (This team has a knack for falling asleep at the end of quarters.....something we def need to see tighten up going forward.)
In the recurring theme department, Memphis took a smidgen of 2nd quarter momentum and carried it over into a defensively brutal 3rd quarter. And while the offense would continue to struggle during the 3rd, the defensive tenacity allowed for us to stay in the game long enough for Lionel to figure out his makeshift tide turner for the evening. Trailing 67-65 heading into the fourth, the Grizz would go on a 14-2 run led by none other than Bayless, Daye, Pondexter, Arthur and Ed Davis. Huh? Yeah.... Sometimes the least obvious answer is the solution. What this young gun crew did allow for was a high pace that matched Minnesota's energy and took them totally out of sync. Qpon would finally come out of what has to be the worst 3 quarter stretch of his career (he was fouling like a Hamed Haddadi tribute) and hit some timely shots to put this one out of reach for the Twolves. The starters would only return for some mop up duty, and thanks to several boneheaded Minn plays they would not be tested much for the final four minutes.
It was really nice to see this bench squad reiterate some kind of identity other than JB smokin folks like a rack of ribs. That identity appears to be a slightly less methodical yet more athletic version of the starting 5 that like to run the floor, hustle after everything and knock down very timely shots. The glorious return of DA and that contagious energy of his - lets just hope it starts inspiring some of the starters whose names rhyme with Clack Mandolph.
- Andrew Kirilenko might be the ugliest person in pro sports.
- The Grizzlies own the Twolves. 11 in a row against the tree doggies. That's a franchise record against one team.
- Stats that stand out - 67% assisted field goals and 6/10 shooting from the arc. Griz are hard to beat when those two things line up that way.
- Austin Daye still might have the lowest overall basketball skill to highest shooting ability ratio in the NBA.
- Mike Conley tacking on another game to his current streak of 64 consecutive games with a steal. Ron Tillery tweeted about this streak a while back when Mike was in the 50's - I believe it puts Mike into the company of a rare few to have a streak that long - something to the tune of Michael Jordan, Gary Payton and Kobe Bryant if memory serves me.
- Marc Gasol remembered to use shampoo in conjunction with conditioner tonight. What was up with his grease-head last night?
- March is over!!! Grizz survive with a not-too-shabby 11-6 record in what was probably the toughest overall month of their season. I was predicting 9-8 for this month, and despite the nasty losses at Washington and NY I'd call this month a success for our boys in Beale St Blue.
The playoff picture in the West remains intriguing and unpredictable heading into this final stretch. Next up? A Ginobli-less Spurs team at home on Monday. Hopefully the first post-trade matchup with this team goes something to the tune of April 2011.
To the Grind!