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Grindhouse Diary: Grizzlies vs. Warriors

OJ Mayo, who was <em>on fire</em> against the Warriors last night, scoring 19 points and shooting 4-6 from beyond the arc.
OJ Mayo, who was on fire against the Warriors last night, scoring 19 points and shooting 4-6 from beyond the arc.

My wife and I were at the game last night between the Golden State Warriors and the Memphis Grizzlies, and I took notes. It was a game that we should’ve won easily, and yet nothing turned our way until we started playing Grizzlies basketball – high energy hustle plays, toughness on defense.

The first half was sloppy, ugly basketball. The Grizzlies were only in the game due to effort, and due to their inexplicably hot shooting from 3. At some point in the first quarter, it was announced that Jesse Jackson was in attendance, sitting courtside next to Michael Heisley. He seemed to be enjoying himself – At least, I saw him politely golf clap for the Grizz Girls a couple of times.

I’ll pick up the diary in the second half. At this point the Grizzlies and Warriors were tied at 50 points each. The Warriors were outscoring the Grizzlies in the paint 26–22 and outrebounding them to boot. Both teams were shooting 45%. In a reversal of, well, everything we’ve seen so far this year, the Grizzlies had five 3-pointers in the first half, one of which was made by Gilbert Arenas – who played some quality minutes in the first half.

10:42: Mike Conley sinks a three pointer, making it six for Memphis so far. The whole game so far has been some sort of Bizarro World Grizzlies game, where outside shooting has kept us in a game where we were getting beaten in the paint. The Warriors were playing pretty good defense in the paint, and calls were going Golden State’s way.

8:42 The Warriors take the lead at 59–54. At this point, the Grizzlies all look tired, which is understandable given how hard they played to beat the Thunder in a hard-fought, close game the night before. I wrote in my notebook that it looked like the Grizzlies were letting bad calls get to them, playing frustrated and pouting.

That’s something they’ve fallen in to from time to time this season. Some players take it harder than others: I noticed several instances in the first half of Rudy getting scored on or missing a shot where he thought he was fouled and jogging back down the court with a frown on his face, off in his own world. It’s something he’s done his whole time in the league, seemingly choosing when he wants to be engaged in the game, turning his considerable abilities on and off like a light switch. In this game, though, he was mostly off, well on his way to a 3/13 shooting night.

8:20 Richard Jefferson takes the first of two or three trips back to the locker room. Maybe he ate some bad Mexican food before the game.

5:23 Rudy Gay is all alone on a fast break and is fouled hard by Klay Thompson – the second time that happened in a short amount of time. Golden State had obviously been instructed, either before the game or during halftime, not to let the Grizz score on a fast break. The second of the two fouls looked dangerously close to being a flagrant, which had the crowd going nuts.

It was during this media timeout that my wife caught an extra large "Made in Memphis" t-shirt that had been shot into the crowd by a pneumatic cannon operated by a man in a giant blue cartoon bear suit. God bless America.

3:50 Hamed Haddadi checks in. You may remember from the Grizzlies’ win over the Lakers in L.A. that Steve Blake is terrified of him:

It’s always amazing to me how little playing time Hollins gives Haddadi, especially when the Grizzlies are down and need a burst of energy. Haddadi may not be the most skilled big man in the game, but he plays hard and makes all kinds of energy plays. Plus, it can’t hurt for the opposing team to have to shoot over an Iranian man roughly the size of a water tower.

This game was no different. Haddadi came in and the Grizzlies’ energy immediately picked up. I liked the way the team looked with the Haddadi-Zach Randolph frontcourt – Randolph is all finesse, Haddadi is all energy. They played well together, but the Grizzlies were still falling behind.

After the 2:15 media timeout, Nate Robinson goes into "annoying-as-hell-to-opposing-fans" mode and makes ridiculous long shot after ridiculous long shot – getting so into it he’s running around with his arms out like a little kid pretending to be an airplane. I tried to count how many times I turned to my wife and said "I hate that guy" but I lost track.

The Grizzlies head into the 4th quarter losing 79–70 to a team that is intentionally trying to be in the bottom 7 of the Western Conference so they can keep their first round draft pick.

The final quarter starts with an immediate Golden State 3 and a Grizzlies turnover. Lionel Hollins calls a timeout, and is very clearly pissed.

10:31 I’m struck by how bad the Grizzlies were at passing into the post in this game. It seems like the perimeter guys were either passing too low (maybe to get the ball around Biedrins?) or Gasol, Speights, Randolph, and Cunningham were all having terrible pass-catching nights. Whether that was because they were tired, whether Golden State’s defense was forcing it, or they were just plain sloppy is anyone’s guess.

Jesse Jackson continued to golf clap after each Grizz Girls routine.

9:42 A couple of college-aged Golden State fans, he in a Stephen Curry jersey and she in a Monta Ellis jersey and Warriors hat, with her toenails painted yellow and blue, stagger to their seats in front of us. They explained that they’d driven five hours to come to the game, only to get drunk in their downtown Memphis hotel room and forget about the game. They made it to their seats with the Warriors still in the lead, attracting all kinds of stinkeye for being the only people on our side of the building clapping when Rudy missed a free throw.

9:00 OJ Mayo makes another three pointer. Bizarro Grizzlies Jumpshot World continues. Mayo was on fire the whole game, though. It makes me sad that the Grizzlies probably aren’t going to be able to re-sign him in the offseason, because he’s the most mysterious guy on the team to me. Able to score at will, good on defense, and yet I don’t feel like anybody really knows anything about him. He always seems to come through when no one expects him to, at times fearless and at time taking stupid shots.

8:47 There’s a jump ball, Tony Allen hits Dante Cunningham for an alley oop jam that brings down the house, timeout Golden State. The Warriors are still winning 86–81, but you can feel it in the building: the momentum is shifting. The crowd is starting to get into it, whereas all night you could feel the frustration with how the Grizz were playing. It was as though the Cunningham dunk signaled to everybody "we haven’t given up on this one yet." The Grindhouse started to come alive, and wouldn’t die down again. The drunken Warriors fans in front of us hang their heads, presumably because they wish they’d just kept drinking.

Immediately after the Golden State timeout, the Grizzles stifling defense forces a shot clock violation, and the next Grizzlies possession ends with a ferocious Marc Gasol drive to the basket… which Tony Brothers decides was a charge because Richard Jefferson, back from the locker room, busted a a Golden-Globe-worthy flop.

Gasol ends up getting fouled during another shot, which Tony Brothers, Official Referree of the All-Time Grizz Killers Team, tries to wave off, but he’s overruled and the basket counts. The FedExForum erupts. 87–86 Memphis.

Once they took the lead, the Grizzlies started playing Grizzlies basketball: forcing steals, creating chaos on the defensive end, alternating between pounding the ball inside and feeding it to hot-handed OJ Mayo beyond the arc.

4:30 Gilbert Arenas steals the ball and lays it in for his tenth point. It was great to see him have a good game, playing crafty, solid defense, and finally starting to find his shot. The crowd was loving him. He fits right in in Memphis, I think, just like everyone predicted he would. (Except the people who worried that his personality was going to push the Grizzlies over the edge into "Too Many Crazies" territory. He’s defintiely a character, but no one can say he’s not a good guy.)

1:31 Rudy Gay slams down a nasty putback dunk off a Marc Gasol miss, which brings the Forum to its feet. "Whoomp (There It Is)" starts playing. It feels like the game is over, even though it’s still too close to feel comfortable. The Grizzlies lead 98–92.

Inexplicably, for the final minute, Mark Jackson decides to let the game play out without fouling any of the Grizzlies players. Presumably he’s from the John Calipari 2008 Vacated Championship Game School of "Let’s Not Foul" Coaching, and it seals the same thing for him that it did for Coach Cal: a loss.

The Grizzlies, in all actuality, should have won this game by forty points, but they came out tired, a little flat, and tried to play from the outside in, contrary to everything that’s brought them success over the last few seasons. The fact that the offense has been off in the weeds since the return of ZBo hasn’t helped.

Still, they came together and used energy and effort to pull out a come-from-behind win over a team they needed to beat, and now they’ve won the first two games of their back-to-back-to-back. If they can somehow find the energy to beat the Mavericks in Dallas tonight, they’ll have opened up some space between themselves and Dallas in the playoff standings. Even if they don’t, they’ve proven yet again that they can will themselves to victory: first over Oklahoma City, and then over Golden State.

I think that’s a quality Jesse Jackson would golf clap for.