Wait .. no..
My goodness. That felt good. What once looked like a bleak 2-0 deficit has now turned into a momentum-bearing lead at a 3-2 advantage with the Memphis Grizzlies defeating the Los Angeles Clippers 103-93 Tuesday night. Maybe it was the significance of this game - maybe it was the physical play - maybe it was three of our starters with 20+ points - but something about this game seemed to summarize everything you wanted this Memphis Grizzlies team to be all year long.
I'll preface with a few blanket points:
- The officiating was indeed spotty on both sides. That first defensive "flop" by Griffin was no flop … Marc Gasol destroyed him and there was no call. Yet minutes later a foul is called on Tony Allen for grazing the arm hair of Chris Paul. .. ? ? Bush league.
- With Russell Westbrook and Derrick Rose out this is probably one of, if not the best, PG matchups of the playoffs. Conley and Paul did not disappoint tonight - epic duel from start to finish.
- Zach Randolph. Currently enjoying my crow pie courtesy of claiming Zbo was done and/or physically uncapable of leading us during the last few weeks of the season. Tastes like happy.
- The Grizzlies have seemed intent on stopping lob dunks from this team all season and especially now in the playoffs. A strength of our Grizzlies is controlling pace, and along with that comes controlling momentum. This team has a collective urgency that allows them to stifle their opponents' momentum before it's overwhelming.
It's unfortunate that Blake Griffin couldn't be at 100% in this game because of some ill-timed practice mishap. Um.. but also … it's fortunate that Blake Griffin couldn't be at 100% in this game because of some ill-timed practice mishap. I have to give an honest hats off to Griffin for playing in this game as long as he did, but from early on it was obvious his high-ankle sprain was significantly limiting his effectiveness. I hate to point out the obvious "Blake is a baby" joke, but he was literally rocking his ankle on a cradle during his bench time. I'm pretty sure CP3 was aware of this early on seeing as his 21 first half points basically anchored the Clippers' existence in the game.
I have to also give an honest hats-off to one Coach Lionel Hollins. I felt pretty dismal about his future in Memphis and his abilities to take us far into the playoffs as a coach in the first 1.5 games …. k maybe a full 2 (unfairly). But his Jackson Pollock-like approach to his lineups has seemed to form a quite beautiful and intriguing pattern throughout the first 5 games. I believe these two teams are lot more evenly matched than some say, and I believe a good deal of this series will come down to coaching. Hollins' over-management of foul trouble in the first game cost us an embarrassing loss IMO, but looking back now it might have allowed him to rule out a lot of bad combinations in a game that was probably not very winnable, honestly.
Game log wise: the referees nearly lost total control of the game within the first 2 minutes. They obviously combatted that with a flurry of head scratching foul calls to get everyone to put their shivs and garrote wire away in the 2nd quarter. Rebounding proved to be key early on - obviously. And although we finished only 2+ in the 'bounding differential we kept ourselves in the game during the first quarter by grabbing some key rebounds both offensively and defensively.
What was up with the Clipps' defensive three second calls? I counted a total of 3? Either the Clippers are getting tired from the brutal nature of this series or … no wait that's probably it. Because it happened to them again on the offensive side not too much later. Can't bring myself to credit Memphis' ball movement or play complexity on that one.
Smart, veteran plays really carried us through the first half. The Grizzlies are gelling at the right time. Tayshaun Prince was sent a memo last game saying that he was indeed an NBA player and had indeed played in the league for 10 years and was indeed healthy and not a zombie. The man has since shown up all over the court and his moxie looks to be rubbing off on some other people. The Grizz close out the half with good effort, some crisp play overall, and some very timely made FT's to give us a +6 buffer at halftime.
We came out sputtering at the start of the 3rd, but Marc Gasol soon took control and furthered the point that absolutely no one on the Clippers can guard him. Besides CP3 and Grizz-Killer Crawford, there was not much going well for the Clippers on offense. Blake Griffin left the game during the 3rd … along with the Clippers only legitimate post game. CP3 continued to make spectacular play, one after another, but when LA started to sneak up with some rhythm the Grizzlies matched them just about every time. Oh and then JARRYD BAYLESS happened ….. WOW! You have to believe this guy has a huge game waiting to burst out of him in the near future. The play with which he punctuated the 3rd quarter extended our lead to 8 points and erupted my living room into what probably sounded like screams of torture and death from across the street. (Sorry neighbors .. it was happy rage!)
Marc Gasol started the 4th Q with burying himself under some heavy foul trouble. You could see Hollins playing the mental chess with his 5 fouls - he wanted to keep him on the bench as long as we had a 4-5 pt cushion - but you have to believe if the score got any closer Gasol would have come back in regardless of the the consequences. It didn't seem to phase the Grizz, however, as Prince and Randolph spearheaded the 4th quarter effort until Gasol was able to come back in. Marc did a superb job of closing space without making contact (DPOY much?), staying away from the 6th foul and snagging crucial rebounds down the stretch. The Clippers didn't muster much of a fight in the waning minutes and the Grizzlies outscored them 30-28 in the final quarter. 30 point 4th quarters are really good for this team.
Memphis wins in another fairly dominating fashion.
Final Game Notes:
- This was one of the biggest wins in franchise history.
- Whatever adrenaline Blake Griffin had to start the game (that allowed him to ignore his ankle pain) was totally negated by the tech called on him 3 mins in.
- Marc Gasol is a top 10 player in the NBA.
- Chris Paul is a top 5 player in the NBA.
- Keyon Dooling is at least useful for absorbing stupid fouls that might normally go to Conley.
- I'm somehow not missing Ed Davis or Austin Daye - two of the tallest players on our team.
- The fact that nearly every NBA player is afraid of Zbo … to the point where he can bow-up and bull rush them, only to rub their head like a puppy dog and smile … pretty much cements him as one of the most physically imposing people on earth.
- These two teams had a nearly identical game statistically. Percentages, rebounds, assists, fouls, blocks, steals - but two key stats stand out to me (if I may put my Hollinger pants on for a second): Clipps with 13 turnovers compared to Grizzlies 7 ----- All 5 Grizzlies starters were a + in the differential, all 5 Clipp starters were a - …. and by quite a bit on both accounts. I'm no expert or coach or sports guru by any stretch, but what that tells me is the Grizzlies simply hustled harder and wanted it a little bit more.
- The post game interviews - CP3 (in his cosmopolitan TMNT outfit) and Vinny Del Negro both looked fairly dejected and baffled after the game. You know LA is going to bring crazy energy to Game 6, but the mentalist in me sees a team that just suffered a catastrophic blow.
- Post game Lionel Hollins made a comment about how Gasol defers to Zbo when their both in the game but becomes more assertive when Zbo is on the bench. It's undoubtedly done with cognizance and purpose, but c'mon Marc … Zbo isn't Pau … you're not gonna get titty-twisted for dominating the ball … just want to remind you that you're a 28 year old beast that just won DPOY and you can score from anywhere inside the arc.
- Oh yeah one last note: AHHHH HAHAHAHAHHAHA OMG WE WON!! YEEEAAAAARGGGHHHH HAHAHAHAHAHHAHBWAHAHAHA!! When Kevin offered me the chance to do this recap I knew it would either be one of the most excruciating or most invigorating things I'd ever written. Memphis' starting 5 knew I couldn't handle writing a defeated game recap, and the integrity of my blood vessels appreciates them very much.
On to Game 6, Grizz Nation and GBB Goodfellows. The great thing about NBA playoffs is that each game can become the most important game of the season, and we have yet another
This is a team being lead by many, not a hero being followed by few.