Last night the Grizzlies defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers in a game that was too close for too long. The Grizzlies started the game lacking the defensive intensity that’s made them famous – until Tony Allen got going. Once he did, he racked up a Grizzlies franchise record 8 steals, scored 13 points, at least two of which were nasty putback dunks.
Other notable Grizzlies stats: Zach Randolph played 20 minutes but only scored 3 points and just 5 rebounds. He was in foul trouble early on and ended up sitting a lot in the second quarter, and it seemed like that kept him from ever getting on a roll. Mike Conley and Marc Gasol both had good games, and both played under 25 minutes, which I’m sure they welcomed. Marreese Speights played a lot because Marc and ZBo were sitting, and ended up with a healthy 17 and 10 (but at this point, a double-double is just another day at the office for these Grizzlies bigs). Lester Hudson and Josh Selby got a lot of playing time, and both of them played pretty well. Hudson still needs to learn the Grizzlies’ defensive schemes, but he’s getting there. Selby looked good, even if he didn’t score much: he managed to play 11 minutes without turning the ball over. I would imagine that if Gilbert Arenas continues to struggle ith his finger injury, Selby and Hudson both will see minutes in the playoffs. Jeremy Pargo appears to have bought himself a one-way ticket to the World Famous Lionel Hollins Doghouse, from which it’s hard to make a return, especially in the postseason.
In my favorite moment of the game, Tony Allen, in typical Tony Allen fashion, pulled this awesome Harlem Globetrotters fake pass that nobody really fell for:
For the Cavaliers – who, I gotta say, showed a lot of fight for a team with nothing to play for – Kyrie Irving had a big night, scoring 25 points. I was at the game, and it was my first time seeing Irving in person. I will say this: he is fast, and he is good. Cleveland has a solid young player to build around in Irving. He’s going to be in the league for a very long time. Fortunately for the Grizzlies, nobody else on the Cavs gave us many problems last night. Antawn Jamison had 17 points and 9 rebounds but it just wasn’t enough.
This game was a close one until late in the fourth quarter when the Grizzlies sealed it with a run and forced the Cavs to start fouling. It felt like the Cavs came into town planning on upsetting the Grizzlies; there was certainly no sign that this was a team trying to tank. They played hard all night.
What really put the game away for the Grizzlies was the fact that the Cavs also missed what felt like fifteen free throws at the end of the game – the officiating was, for lack of a better word, interesting at times on both ends of the court, with lots of late whistles coming after missed baskets on both ends – and having a team miss that many free throws never hurts.
Quincy Pondexter went down early with what’s being called a “sprained right knee” and didn’t return. With any luck, he just tweaked it, and Coach Hollins didn’t feel like risking it in a game where the Grizz should’ve been more than capable of winning without him.
Now for the playoff picture: with last night’s win, the Grizzlies moved within a half a game of the Los Angeles Clippers for the fourth seed. The Clippers are a half game behind the Lakers for the third seed, but they need the Lakers to lose to the Kings to get there. The Grizzlies will have to beat the Orlando Magic on Thursday night and hope the Clippers lose out to be able to move up to the fourth spot. The Grizzlies’ road to the NBA Championship is going to run through Los Angeles no matter what happens at this point – we can hold on to hope for home court advantage, but no matter what, it looks like we’ve got a date with the city of L.A. next week.