Grizzlies Grades: Denver Nuggets at Memphis Grizzlies

Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

Nuggets 92 - Grizzlies 100

STARTERS

Zach Randolph : (B+) 42 MIN | 20 PTS | 7-22 FG | 15 REB | 4 AST | 2 STL | 3 BLK | 1 TO | +17

A game of two halves was the story for Zbo last night. Struggled mightily with Faried's intensity and assertiveness during the first half where he was unable to get into deep post position on offense and was allowing Faried to go wild by scoring at will and hitting the offensive glass. However in the second half, Conley's dribble penetration changed the landscape of the game and opened up the court for Zbo as he quickly went to work, generating offense in a variety of ways from the low block, whether it's facilitating for the shooters, hitting mid range jumpers or attacking the glass. Zbo also increased his physicality on Faried, harassing the Manimal into multiple mistakes and rendering him ineffective during the second half. When the game was on the line, Zbo once again proved his worth by hitting clutch FTs and jumpers to help seal this must-win game. A team high of 42 minutes played shows that his fitness and conditioning is still top-notch.

Tayshaun Prince : (A-) 14 MIN | 12 PTS | 6-8 FG | 2 REB | 1 AST | -3

High productivity in a game that was cut short by an unfortunate ankle sprain. With Zbo and Gasol on fire early, the Nuggets defense were not paying much attention to Prince, as he made them pay by taking and making multiple high percentage shots over smaller defenders. His injury has finally given all Grizzlies fans an opportunity to see what we've been wanting for the past two months (although not under the best of circumstances). It will be very interesting to see who Joerger goes with to fill in for Prince. Will TA or Miller start? Will JJ play meaningful minutes again and will he play with freedom? interesting times ahead.

Marc Gasol : (B+) 36 MIN | 24 PTS | 8-16 FG | 5 REB | 3 AST | 1 BLK | 3 TO | +2

Big Marc was consistently excellent on the offensive end against Mozgov, where he attacked him into foul trouble the entire game, however Gasol was surprisingly ineffective against smaller, more athletic defenders as he settled for fadeaways rather than continuing to dominate using his size. Gasol's lazy interior defense during the flat second quarter was also a cause for concern as the Nuggets picked apart the Grizzlies defense with their semi-transition attack. Teams that have beaten the Grizzlies this week were all using this tactic to their full advantage, something that Gasol, the anchor of the defense, will need to address and help the Grizzlies overcome.

Mike Conley : (B) 35 MIN | 21 PTS | 5-14 FG | 5 REB | 4 AST | 2 STL | 1 TO | +8

Conley's performance couldn't have been any more different between the two halves. His over-dribbling, rushed shooting and inability to stop the Nuggets guards from penetration during the first half were a massive issue for the Grizzlies. However Coach Joerger must have laid it on Conley during halftime, challenging him to go into the second half with a much more determined mindset as Conley turned into a completely different player. Mike started penetrating at will, at one stage either scoring or assisting on five or six straight possessions to turn the momentum of the game around. The newly-found aggressiveness also made it infinitely easier for his big men to operate in the paint. The dagger three during the fourth quarter essentially gave the Grizzlies enough separation to seal the win.

Courtney Lee : (B-) 39 MIN | 10 PTS | 3-7 FG | 1 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 2 TO | +11

It's safe to assume that in order for Lee to excel, he needs Conley or the Bigs to playing well in order to open up the court for him, as he simply doesn't have the quickness to create his own offense off the dribble. This trend was especially evident last night as Lee was able to play with tons of freedom as soon as Conley and Zbo started to dominate the game at the start of the third quarter. Played some extra minutes this game to fill in the void that Prince's injury left behind, the extra time did not affect his focus as he was still engaged defensively while contributing to the Grizzlies awesome night at the FT line.

BENCH

Tony Allen : (C) 20 MIN | 5 PTS | 1-4 FG | 1 REB | 1 AST | 2 STL | -3

Offensively, TA has been showing us his "trick" side for a good part of ten straight games now, let's hope that we see a big run of his "treat" side for the last six games of the regular season. It is likely that TA will shoulder more of the tough perimeter defensive assignments with Prince's pending absence, but out of all bench players TA will by far be the most prepared for the increased role due to his prior Grit n Grind experience.

Nick Calathes : (B-) 17 MIN | 4 PTS | 1-3 FG | 1 REB | 2 AST | 2 STL | 1 TO | +5

Was very interesting to see Calathes play some crucial fourth quarter minutes with Conley as they played surprisingly well together with TA at the small forward spot to counter Denver's small ball lineup. Having Conley in the lineup enabled Calathes to run the floor more while staying aggressive on the defensive end. From laughingstock to a key cog of the Grizzlies rotation, I would have to say that Conley's ankle sprain in February turned out to be an awesome blessing in disguise that completely turned Calathes' confidence around.

Mike Miller : (C-) 18 MIN | 2 PTS | 0-4 FG | 1 REB | 2 AST | 2 TO | -3

Shooters will always go through hot and cold periods as Miller is going through right now. He is my odds-on pick to take on the starting job during Prince's absence. With Miller being on the court alongside the much more dangerous starting unit, he should see a lot more open spaces to launch himself back into form, however on the flip side, he will most likely have to check a bevy of dangerously athletic small forwards (next two games - Kawhi Leonard & Lebron James), the pressure will be on the Grizzlies to help out Miller with their team defense.

Kosta Koufos : (C+) 11 MIN | 0 PTS | 0-1 FG | 5 REB 1 TO | +3

Kosta's recently reduced PT has somewhat affected his output on the court, but the effort is still right there as he battled hard against the Nuggets big men during his limited time. The next stretch of six game will likely see increasing playing time for the starters, and with Ed Davis' reintroduction to the rotation, Kosta's PT may continue to be affected, but we all know that he is ready to battle under any circumstances.

Ed Davis : (C-) 6 MIN | 2 PTS | 1-4 FG | 2 REB | -7

Gave Zbo a breather at the start of the second quarter, started positively with a bucket and was active on the offensive glass, however Ed was unable to contain Faried's inspired play. Boss Man was not able to get back onto the court in the second half as Zbo became the focal point of the Grizzlies comeback.

James Johnson : (N/A) 2 MIN | 0 PTS | 0-0 FG | +4

Prince's ankle injury was supposed to land JJ a key role for the rest of the game, however with the game essentially being a must-win situation, Coach Joerger changed his mind and decided to shorten his rotation by extending his starters minutes. Going forward, JJ *HAS* to be given a chance to play a role off the bench again, and if he finds that "playing with house money" attitude again like he did earlier in the season, JJ will no doubt become a key factor once again, something that all Grizzlies fans will want to see.

OPPONENT

Denver Nuggets : (C+)

After falling behind early, The Nuggets were inspired by Faried's play as they started to attack the Grizzlies before defenses were set, resulting in a comedy of easy baskets to retake the lead. However once Conley and Zbo took over the game during the third quarter, the outside shots stopped falling for the Nuggets and the defensive pressure resulted in multiple mistakes. From that point onwards the Nuggets were fighting an uphill battle the rest of the way. Another injury blow, this time for Ty Lawson, will have the Nugget fans gasping in horror as this has truly turned into a lost season in the Rocky Mountains.

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