If there were ever a game that was titled "A Tale of Two Halves," it would be this one. Memphis got the ball rolling by allowing the Cavaliers offense to run a train on them for the first two quarters of play, but then responded in the second half with a vintage handcuffs performance to pull out a victory. After being down 11 at the break, the Grizzlies turned things around and ended up winning by 14 in a very entertaining ball game. This game had everything: half court 3's, Tony Allen jumpers, Courtney Lee blocking two shots, a Mike Conley bounce back, Gay-T.[i]
What I liked most about this game: The big guns showing up big. Zach Randolph went for 23 and 14 while Mike Conley and Marc Gasol each had 22 points. The Grizzlies will win a lot of games when they get 60+ out of those guys, and coming down the stretch into the playoffs, they're going to need it.
What I liked least about this game: Another back to back where we had three DNP-CDs. I understand Beno Udrih probably wasn't prepared to run the offense, but again Leuer and Ed Davis can't crack the floor. Not only that, James Johnson and Mike Miller combined for 13 minutes, none in the fourth quarter, all while Tayshaun Prince played 33 largely ineffective minutes. He finished at +18, but that's thanks in large part to the starters closing the game strong and winning by 14 points.
Game Notes from the Legend-wait for it-Diary
- Remember when a decent portion of the fan base was clamoring for the front office to trade Tony Allen after the addition of Courtney Lee? Yeah...probably a good thing that didn't happen. TA has played incredible, and his energy off the bench has been key to help spark several runs.
- Speaking of the Grindfather and the bench, I've noticed when he and James Johnson are celebrating; Tony flexes his muscles up near his head, while Johnson does a lower flex around his core. It's fun to watch, just like everything else they do. If only they could get more minutes together.
- Zach Randolph was hungry tonight. When he exited the game in the first quarter, he was visibly upset with having to come out. Later on in the game, he and Kosta Koufos were jawing at each other after a rebound they both went for (although, admittedly, it looked like Kosta was more upset with ZBo than anything) and his was very vocal running down the court after made buckets. The big fella was 11-17 on the night, including 14 rebounds, 3 assists, and 4 steals. He's so much fun to watch when he kicks it into gear like that, and if he's getting ready to go on a run of dominance, then there are three Western Conference teams that need to keep a close eye on their rearview mirror. I don't care how old he his, he still has the ability to put the team on his back and carry them for extended periods of time.
- Three times during a five-minute stretch of play in the second half, players were slipping and falling on the Cavaliers side of the court. It was very peculiar, and luckily no one was hurt. Kyrie Irving seemed a little effected by it, although there were a few times he was just trying to hard to shake defenders and he put himself on skates. There were also several other times where he left defenders in his dust (RIP Courtney Lee's ankles) and he finished with 28 points on the night.
- The Cavs scored at least 30 points (30. 35) in each of the first two quarters, then scored 31 combined (15, 16) in the second half. That is the kind of defense Memphis will need to play more of down the stretch.
- Going back to Tony Allen for a minute, because I want to risk praising him. Earlier this year, when TA was playing really well on offense, I jokingly referred to him as "Scoring-Guard" Tony Allen, and he immediately went on a stretch of horrible decision making and frustrating offensive performances, so it is with great caution I write these next few sentences. Since returning from injury, TA is shooting an insane 70% from the floor including 3-4 from the 3-point line. While both of those numbers are crazy high, and in no way do I expect him to keep it up, he does play much better with the bench, because the floor is spaced, and he is able to run around a bit more and use his athleticism. He's going to be a huge weapon down the stretch. (If he goes 11 for his next 70 and 0-12 from 3, then you all have my permission to give me a wedgie the next time you see me. I deserve it).
- My brother was returning from a baseball tournament, and didn't show up until just before halftime. As I was standing out in the lobby waiting on him to get in, I counted 21 people who left the game before halftime. Here's my question: WHO ARE YOU PEOPLE?! Leaving the game in the second quarter? Does this happen every game? Why bother even showing up at all? Do you do this at movies? Do you leave the restaurant after your appetizer arrives? I don't understand you humans, and I probably never will...
All in all, this was a good win, and much needed for Memphis. The Grizzlies can't afford many more losses this season (six by my count), and should they miss the playoffs, this would have been one of those losses they would have been kicking themselves over at the end of the year. But it appeared as if pride kicked in after halftime as the Grizzlies outscored the Cavs 56-31 in the second half.
The win now moves the Grizzlies to within a game of the final playoff spot, and each of the three teams they are chasing, Phoenix, Dallas, and Golden State, are in action on Sunday. Time to start doing a little scoreboard watching, and rooting for teams we don't normally care about.
The next Grizzlies game is Monday in the DC against John Wall and the Wizards. The Grizzlies barely snuck out a victory during the last matchup between these two teams, but they'll both look differently tomorrow. The Grizzlies will have Tony Allen to help defend Bradley Beal, and the Wizards won't have NeNe to defend Zach Randolph. Memphis needs to take advantage of those matchups and continue to stockpile wins as the climb toward the playoffs, because they're going to need them.
[i] It's that thing where a flamboyant Justin Timberlake impersonator sings all his songs in a loud, Broadway style.