There's been lots of talk about how Ronnie Brewer would allow Coach Lionel Hollins to get creative with his lineups, but Hollins didn't need Brewer around to play tricks on the Washington Wizards.
For the first 3 minutes of the 4th quarter, Hollins tried out a three guard set of Sam Young, Marcus Williams, O.J. Mayo with the frontcourt of Darrell Arthur and Hamed Haddadi. This was nothing less than a tremendous leap of faith for the coach who, quite honestly, hasn't been able to trust his bench at all this season.
But that unit played surprisingly creative small-ball, getting starter O.J. Mayo a chance to heat up against the Wizards bench, which is mostly comprised of poor individual defenders. The rest of the bench played great around Mayo, as Marcus Williams deferred more often, Darrell Arthur seemed a bit more open in the mid-range, and Hamed Haddadi again looked much more like a Zaza Pachulia or Marcin Gortat then a Hasheem Thabeet.
Once that group got the Grizzlies up 82-70, Memphis never turned back. Though the Wizards did begin to make back some ground to keep it interesting, this one was pretty much in hand because of the OJAM and bench team's great effort on both ends of the floor.
One thing I will say about this Wizards team, though, is that they were better than I expected. I'm still not convinced that Andray Blatche has nearly the future his stats would suggest (24 points, 8 boards, 5 assists tonight; that's been similar to his contributions since the Jamison trade).
Blatche just needs the ball in his hands constantly to put up those kinds of numbers, and I'd question whether a team with him as their feature forward has much of a future. The kid has skills, he's a little like Josh Smith crossed with Zach Randolph [the Truth About It blog gave me "a homeless Chris Bosh and a homeless Jermaine O'Neal as their comparison], but he doesn't understand the team game. Once opponents scout his flaws -- over-dribbling, poor decision-making, too willing to take jumpers -- he is going to be brought back to earth.
Anyhow, moving back to the Grizz, not much criticism about this win. I loved how the big's were getting fed off the pick-and-roll by both Mike Conley (6 assists) and O.J. (8 assists) to make easy buckets. Marc Gasol shot 10-11 and Hamed Haddadi also pitched in 3-4 shooting because of their excellent entry passes. If I have any problems, it's that I'd love to see Darrell Arthur, with his athleticism, get involved in the rolling action for some big dunks.
Marcus Williams also saw extended minutes tonight, which is one thing I wasn't thrilled with. Mike Conley was ice cold from the field (0-6) but Marcus wasn't tons better (1-7, 3 assists in 17 minutes). I still think that, in situations like this one, some Lester Hudson or Jamaal Tinsley couldn't hurt.
But it's tough to complain when Marcus Williams was a player in the most successful lineup of the night, arguably the only successful lineup of the night, and he definitely isn't needing the ball in his hands quite like those guards do to be effective. More Marcus means more O.J., which also means less problems.