I walked into FedExForum tonight expecting that I was going to see a close game between the Grizzlies and the Brooklyn Nets. I expected Brook Lopez and Marc Gasol to go toe-for-toe, trading great plays in the paint. I expected the Tony Allen/Joe Johnson battle to be epic. I expected Mike Conley to struggle with Deron Williams’ size and Deron Williams to struggle with Conley’s speed.
It was not a close game.
After the first quarter, the Grizzlies were up 33–22, and Griz fans everywhere knew that tonight was not going to be like the Grizzlies games we’ve been watching for almost the last two months now. This was a return of sorts to the ball movement, extra pass, pick and roll Grizzlies that we saw blow out the best teams in the league back in November.
At the half, the Grizzlies had a 67–44 lead, and the Grizzlies went on to score fewer points in the second half (34) than they did in the second quarter (35) and still won by 24. Brooklyn just wasn’t ever in the game to begin with after the first four or five minutes.
Herewith, some scattered thoughts:
- Lionel Hollins had a lot to say in the postgame about what’s got the Grizzlies’ offense clicking again. The three biggest things Coach Hollins said the Grizzlies were doing better?
- The pace was better
- The ball movement was (much) better
- They’re attacking in the pick and roll instead of running a lot of post-up and iso sets.
- Jerry Stackhouse is, like, really old. Really old. He looked good while the Nets were warming up, but he didn't play tonight.
- About that ball movement: the Grizzlies ended up with 25 assists as a team, and they were spread around the box score. In fact, only Chris Johnson, Jon Leuer, and Hamed Haddadi didn’t have at least one.
- Jerryd Bayless seems to have been refreshed by the trade of Marreese Speights and Wayne Ellington. Hollins had already been making use of Bayless off the ball with Mike Conley (and vice versa) before the trade, but now that Tony Wroten is, apparently, going to be getting serious minutes — at least for now — Bayless is playing off the ball with Conley, and then Wroten is coming in for Conley and Bayless is staying out there as a 2-guard. Which seems to have freed him up to play his own game a little bit. He looks more confortable on the court, more easy with what he’s doing. That can only be a good thing for the Grizzlies’ bench production.
- Chris Johnson can apparently play basketball. Tonight he went for 10 points on 4–6 shooting including going 50% (2–4) from 3. Hollins said before the Lakers game that Johnson was going to be "thrown in the fire." In the postgame tonight, Lionel said he told Johnson when they met that "I don’t know if you can play, but you’re about to get an opportunity to." I’d say he’s earned another 10-day contract, at the very least.
- Brooklyn, as a team, shot 17.6% from 3, making 3 of 17 attempts. They also attempted 25 free throws and made 16 of them. Meanwhile, the Grizzles only attempted 9 3’s, but made 4 of them, and only attempted 8 free throws. The Grizzlies made 47 field goals in the game tonight, for an overall shooting percentage of 52.2%.
- Reggie Evans caused problems for Zach Randolph, just like last year in the playoffs against the Clippers, but this time, Zach was healthy (well, excepting his back) and put up 12 points, 9 rebounds, 2 assists, a steal, and a block. No nuts were grabbed. (After the game, Memphis radio host Chris Vernon actually asked Randolph whether Evans had grabbed his, uh, Z-Bo’s. Randolph just laughed and said "[Evans] is a tough dude, man.")
- Tony Wroten had a couple of sick dunks that are bound to be on YouTube somewhere. They were nasty. Kid's fun to watch.
Overall, it was a great win for the Grizzlies, and now they’ve put up back to back 100-point games (on teams with crappy defenses — Brooklyn is 16th in DRtg with a 105.6 and the Los Angeles Lakers are 23rd with a 107). The Speights/Ellington trade seems to have forced Lionel Hollins’ hand with the lineups he’s having to play, but the guys he’s playing are playing well.
Let’s hope this momentum continues into Sunday afternoon’s game against the much-improved New Orleans Pelicornets. Onward and upward!