What a game. Finally, the Grizzlies won one. Not only did they finally win one, but they won in such a way that was reminiscent of the 2011 playoff run: elbow-grease defense. Things flowed well, players did their respective jobs, and the battles that needed to be won were won.
The Grizzlies lost the point-guard battle to JJ Barea, who, in 23 minutes, put up 17 points and snagged 6 assists. Memphis will face much better point-guards than Barea before the season is over (and definitely in the playoffs) - if Mike Conley is truly the defensive player Coach Hollins expects him to be, this can't happen often.
The FG percentage still hasn't found a way to improve. Tonight, the Grizzlies only shot 37.2% from the field. That's as bad as the Grizzlies shot during their last four-game losing streak. The Wolves actually shot better than the Grizzlies (39.2%), but were beat in other ways tonight.
The Grizzlies had a hard time running away with the win towards the end. In the third quarter, the Grizzlies were able to claim a 17-point-lead and were looking at a win if they maintained the same momentum for only a few more minutes. Well into the fourth, however, Minnesota didn't go down without a fight - with close to 2 minutes left in the game, the Wolves were only down by 9. Remember, they're a strong 3-point shooting team. The Wolves could have been right back in it with a couple of shots behind the arc.
A lot of good things were seen here. Starting with the most glaring statistic: Minnesota was out-rebounded, big time. Big time. The Grizzlies ended the night with 59 boards - 12 more than the Wolves. Marreese Speights came up big with 15 rebounds, That's a statistic that one usually sees after Zach Randolph's name. Without Kevin Love down low, the Wolves didn't have a presence: of the 59 Memphis rebounds, 21 of them were offensive. Of these 21 offensive rebounds, the Grizz put up 20 second-chance points.
Players performed when they had to perform. Rudy Gay led the team with 19 points and 9 rebounds. Right behind him was Quincy Pondexter with 17 points. Big Spain Marc Gasol did his job with 8 rebounds and 12 points. Things were clicking. Players knew where they were going and when they were doing it. It looked like professional basketball was being played.
Thought this sentence would never be reported: the bench showed up and played one heck of a game. Cunningham, Mayo, and Pargo combined for a total of 29 points and 14 rebounds and were a solid presence on the court (did anybody see the Jeremy Pargo slam?!). If you didn't see it - here's a video:
Lastly, defense won the game here: The Timberwolves scored a season-low 80 points. This was the lowest any team has scored against the Grizzlies this season.
What does this mean for the Grizzlies?
The Grizzlies gained some much needed confidence in this win to open up the four-game home-stand. Players like Marreese Speights, Jeremy Pargo, and Quincy Pondexter all had an opportunity to showcase their talent in front of Coach Hollins as well as (perhaps more importantly) themselves. These three guys have seemed to be the players for whom everybody has held their breath in waiting so that fans and writers can finally exhale after a big game. Tonight, I think the players made a statement: they're here to play and here to help the team.
One thing is for certain - the Grizzlies are definitely better when these three show up.
Player of the Game: Rudy Gay (19 points, 9 rebounds)
Man of the Game: Marreese Speights (15 rebounds - 8 offensive rebounds)
Sleeper of the Game: Mike Conley (2 points, 7 assists)
And, of course, the infamous
Alex Smith Award: Jose Juan Barea (17 points, 6 assists)
Enjoy tonight, Grizzlies fans. Indiana comes to town on Friday night.