There are so many things I love about our city: the food, the ladies, the music, the culture, and the ladies; but one of the things I love most is the "one of us" mentality that exists throughout the 901. We're not New Yorkers, we don't all have beach front homes, but there is a distinct sense of pride that is felt, shared, and respected by everyone in the metropolitan area, and that belief and mentality, that old adage of "when you're here, you're family" extends to our beloved Memphis Grizzlies. The city latches on to these players, adopts them, and loves them. That was made abundantly clear Saturday night as an entire arena full of fans rallied around Nick Calathes and watched him light up the Bucks to the tune of 22 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, and zero turnovers. #LetsGoNick indeed!
Calathes has been much maligned throughout his brief tenure with the Grizzlies, but ever since that ill-advised booing incident against the Thunder, the fans have begun to take Nick under their wing, and treat him like the rest of the team. Tonight, as the Grizzlies begin a tough stretch of games without their star point guard Mike Conley, Calathes got the start, and he rewarded everyone who had been cheering for him, as he helped lead Memphis to an ugly, hard fought victory over the Milwaukee Bucks.
If this game was a date, I imagine a lot of fans would have invoked The Lemon Law early on, because this one started ugly. Milwaukee opened the game on a 10-1 run, and Memphis was able to score just 3 points in the first 5:15 of game time. The lack of a facilitator hurt, but the Grizzlies were also simply just missing shots. After the lull to begin the game, Marc Gasol scored three straight buckets to get the Grizzlies into some semblance of rhythm and pull the Grizzlies to within one point. After Memphis briefly took the lead on a Zach Randolph jumper, the Bucks closed the quarter on a 12-4 run to lead by 7 heading into the second quarter.
Memphis would find its footing on offense in the second quarter, having some good luck on isolation plays and then getting assists on 6 of their last 8 buckets. Unfortunately, the Grizzlies defense came up short, and they couldn't get stops without fouling, surrendering 12 of the Bucks 25 second quarter points at the line. Despite their poor play, the Grizzlies would cash in a late Courtney Lee triple to pull within six points and trail 49-43 at the break.
Marc Gasol would lead the Grizzly charge out of halftime, scoring 8 of his 19 in the first six and a half minutes of the period. After porous defense and more free throws saw the Bucks advantage jump up to 11 points, Memphis would close the quarter on a 14-5 run to cut the lead to 2 points entering the fourth, and that's where the Grizzlies would deliver the knockout blow.
Zach Randolph scored 10 of his team-high 23 points in the quarter, and Nick Calathes added 9 points on 3/3 shooting from beyond the arc. As the Grizzlies offense began to click, they scored 32 points in the quarter; they finally began to clamp down on defense. The Bucks didn't score a single point for four minutes and three seconds midway through the fourth, and if it weren't for the 12 quick points they scored in what was essentially garbage time, wouldn't have managed to clip 80 total points on the night. But due to a couple late 3's, and six of Brandon Knight's 23 points coming in under a minute, the game ended up being much closer than it should have been before Memphis finally emerged with a 99-90 victory.
Game Notes from the Legend-wait for it-Diary
- The opponent may have been the hapless Bucks, but Nick Calathes certainly delivered the type of performance to instill some confidence in his coaches, teammates, and fans. This was the Nick Calathes Grizzlies fans hoped for when they quickly YouTube'd his highlight reel after learning of the signing this offseason, and it's the Nick Calathes Memphis will need as it continues it's drive up the Western Conference rankings and into the playoffs.
- My favorite thing about Nick's performance tonight was the 4/5 shooting from beyond the arc. I remember hearing that he was "pretty solid" when he had his feet set from behind the line, but so far this season, he's been nothing short of atrocious shooting the basketball. Tonight, it looked like he was playing with a little confidence, and it seemed to go a long way.
- Favorite moment of the game was seeing Nick walk to the bench towards an overjoyed Dave Joerger, grinning from ear to ear, as Dave fist-bumped him and patted him towards the bench and into the high-fiving arms of all his teammates.
- To Anthony, the new usher who was working 110 tonight, no one in our section likes you, and we all think you smell.
- Welcome back to the Grind, Jon Leuer! The Grizzlies cult-hero power forward scored 8 points in his first serious game action since Gasol returned, and was +21 on the night.
- The Grizzlies celebrated all the past and present Grizz Girls and members of the old dance teams during the game and at halftime tonight. Some of the guys and gals may not have been dancing for 10 years, but for one performance, they all had it working.
- The giveaway today was a poster of all the Grizz Girls. While walking to my seat I passed a shady character clutching 6 of the posters tightly in his arms.
- Memphis had 22 assists on 38 makes (57.8%), both almost right on their seasonal averages. Courtney Lee dished out a team high 7.
The win puts the Grizzlies into the eighth seed by percentage points over the Dallas Mavericks. No time to celebrate just yet, as the Grizzlies must now travel to Oklahoma City to take on Kevin Durant and the Thunder. Beating the Bucks without Mike Conley was one thing, but attempting to slow down Durant, Reggie Jackson, and company without your squad being at full strength has burned the Grizzlies multiple times in the past. Let's hope Calathes was just scratching the surface of his potential and the Grizzlies are able to just keep winning.