In a game that made viewers more nauseous because of the camera angle on the live feed than because of the play on the court, the Grizzlies continued their role as preseason world-beaters (okay, maybe not), downing a feeble Magic team 97-91.
The most pleasant part of tonight's game had to be Mike Miller's performance. After playing decently in his first three preseason games, he finally had a breakout game that Grizzlies fans hope springs up more often. Miller finished with 19 points and 11 rebounds, good enough to lead the team in both categories. Miller hasn't ever been a guy that pulls down rebounds because of his spring, but he's a smart player that positions himself well, and he will certainly help an already good rebounding team in that department. Miller continues to play big minutes in the preseason, which is puzzling. It's a bit surprising that Coach David Joerger isn't resting him in hopes of milking out every last ounce of his usefulness in the regular season and playoffs. It will be interesting to see if Miller playing 25-30 minutes a night is sustainable over an 82 game season.
Despite Miller's stellar performance, not everything went his way tonight. In a scary sight in the fourth quarter, Miller fell to the ground and was slow to get up before hobbling off the court to have a seat on the bench. He did reenter the game shortly thereafter, but not for long. Hopefully it won't be one of those nagging injuries that have hindered Miller in the past. It seemed like a hip injury, but it was too tough to tell for sure.
Another concern is the Grizzlies continued three-point shooting woes. The team was a meager 4-16 from deep tonight, and despite Miller shooting the cover off the ball from beyond the arc, he can't be expected to carry the team in that department all by himself. Three-point shooting is shaping up to be a glaring weakness yet again for this year's team.
Ed Davis continued his run of solid preseason play, posting an impressive line of 16 points, 10 rebounds, and 2 blocks. The battle between Davis and Jon Leuer for the backup power forward role certainly seems legitimate, but Davis continues to cement his position with strong play. Leuer has been playing exceptionally well, too, but Davis' upside on the defensive end coupled with him being a better rebounder could win him the backup job.
Although the Grizzlies executed well on offense for the most part, the defense was paltry at times. They demonstrated no ability to even slow down rookie sensation Victor Oladipo. He was simply too fast and athletic for whoever was guarding him. Just about every Grizzlies backcourt player had a crack at him before the night was over, and all had limited success. The Magic will be a bad team this year, but they won't be boring. Oladipo adds enough spice by himself to make this team a league pass favorite.
Key cog Marc Gasol had a bit of an off night, finishing with just 12 points and 4 boards. At one point, he even airballed a fifteen foot jumper, which is completely uncharacteristic of Big Spain. Gasol terrorized fellow center Nikola Vucevic down low, eventually causing the Montenegrin big man to foul out in the third quarter. Vucevic fought valiantly in the post, but there aren't many centers in the league that can handle Gasol one on one right now.
The backup point guard competition remains wide open. Bayless got most of the time in that role tonight, and he demonstrated once again that he is not comfortable there. He makes decisions too slowly, and the ball sticks in his hands far longer than it needs to for him to be effective running the point. As for newcomer Nick Calathes, he looks good running the point as a distributor, but his shooting is awful. He isn't a consistent threat to score anywhere outside of the paint, which could hurt the Grizzlies depending on how Joerger handles it. Sure Calathes is great at driving and kicking, but if he turns out to be a one trick pony, it could be detrimental to both his and the team's overall success.
Quincy Pondexter had a poor game, and it will be harder for Joerger to justify starting him over Miller if more performances like the two had tonight follow. Whether Pondexter starts or not, he will be a key part of this team. That's a foregone conclusion. However, so is the fact that some team is going to come headhunting for Q-Pon after the season and offer him big money. That should be cause for concern for the Grizzlies front office. At just 25 years of age, Pondexter has far from played out his useful life in the NBA. As a matter of fact, he is getting better by leaps and bounds year after year. He's a blessing for the Grizzlies now, but they should try to lock him up long term before other suitors come calling en masse.
The last thing that needs to be said about this game is the Grizzlies actually designed a sidelines out of bounds play for Tony Allen. He received the ball on a handoff near the elbow and pulled up for a jumper. He airballed it. Yep, that sounds about right.
All in all, the Grizzlies played a decent game, but it is always tough to tell what conclusions can be drawn from a meaningless preseason game. You be the judge.
The Grizzlies will go for four straight wins in Atlanta this Sunday (October 20th) at 3:00 PM EST. Go Grizz!