The majority of fans might believe Mike Conley is the most valuable player to the Grizzlies, but clearly, Marc Gasol is the cornerstone to Grit and Grind. In a game that looked like the Grizzlies were going to suffer from a bit of Gay-Ja Vu and allow Rudy Gay to pick up his second win against them, Memphis would instead stand tall on the defensive end late in the game to pick up a hard fought 91-90 win.
What I liked most about this game: Dave Joerger picking up a Tech. I love when the coach shows a little fire and a little venom towards the officials. I grew up watching Bobby Cox constantly getting run out of games, so it always excites me when a coach get's T'd up in the right way. More on this later.
What I liked least about this game: The Grizzlies offense. We all knew it would take some time to find their exact groove once Gasol returned, but the last two games have been brutal at times.
Both teams got this one started with a delay of game warning (which probably should have been a sign of things to come) followed by both teams scoring their first two points from they're All-Star power forwards at the free throw line. Memphis jumped out to an early four-point lead, but would go long stretches without buckets. Courtney Lee would pace the Grizzlies with 7 points in the quarter, but they failed to get much of anything from anyone else, and couldn't defend DeMarcus Cousins who scored 9 of his team high 22 points, and Sacramento took a 21-20 advantage into the second quarter.
For the first few minutes of the second quarter, Grizzlies fans were treated to something they had never seen before: The Nick Calathes Show. This is not a typo. The Grizzlies beleaguered back up point guard had 7 points, 2 rebounds, and a steal in the quarter, and played his best basketball of the season, by far. If only every team had a Jimmer for him to square off against. The Grizzlies also got 6 points from Mike Conley in the quarter to help them build their lead. But again, the Grizzlies allowed one King to do a majority of the damage, this time the culprit was Derrick Williams, who scored 8 points in the quarter, including 3 in the final minute to pull the Kings to within two points at 44-42 at the break.
Both teams came out of the half trading buckets, with Sacramento getting balanced scoring from a couple of players, and Memphis riding the hot hand of Marc Gasol. The big fella scored the Grizzlies first 8 points of the quarter, and he looked very comfortable in his third game back. In parts of the previous two games, he's spent time favoring his knee, and looking terribly out of shape from the time off, but tonight, he looked like the reigning Defensive Player of the Year. Despite the good third quarter offense, the Grizzlies were not getting any stops to create space between themselves and the Kings. DeMarcus Cousins had 12 points in the quarter, and Isaiah Thomas had 6 of his 14 and the Kings outscored the Grizzlies 29-28 in the quarter, and trailed by only one point heading into the final frame.
The fourth quarter was ugly. No way around it. Missed free throws, turnovers, poor officiating, poor shooting: just ugly, ugly basketball. Luckily for the Grizzlies, they do ugly basketball better than anyone else in the league. Memphis blew its lead, and found itself trailing by as much as 7 late in the quarter. With 4:01 to play, DeMarcus Cousins went to the line to shoot a pair of free throws after being fouled by Marc Gasol.
While Boogie was at the line, Dave Joerger was still jawing with one of the officials. I watched him intently, because I knew what was about to happen, and even called out, "Get that tech, Dave!" and shortly after those words left my mouth, the whistle sounded, the refs hands went up, and Mr. Golly Shucks found himself hit with his third tech of the season. As I mentioned earlier, I loved it. One of the season ticket holders behind me went off on him, thinking it was a terrible time in the game for him to be losing his cool. (He may have been right, but sometimes, Dave Joerger just can't win with certain people.) I turned and said, that I disagreed, that I thought it would fire the guys up. And from the 4:01 point on, after the free throws, the Kings made just one more bucket the rest of the game. I consider that fire lit.
Memphis scored on each of it's next four possessions to take a one point lead at 89-88, before doing everything they could to allow the Kings back in the game. With under a minute and a half to play, Courtney Lee did his best TA impression by blowing a fastbreak layup, and then on the next possession, Conley was fouled while missing a layup attempt, and missed both free throws. Rudy got the ball with 15 seconds left on the clock to attempt the game winner, but Tayshaun tied him up, and on the jump ball, Marc Gasol was able to deflect possession over to Mike Conley who simply through the ball up in the air as time expired.
Game Notes from the Legend-wait for it-Diary
- Block party, baby! The Grizzlies totaled 13 (!) blocks on the night, including four apiece from Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol. By my count, 5 of those blocks were on Rudy Gay.
- Speaking of blocks, in the second quarter, Marc Gasol blocked a DeMarcus Cousins layup, and on the ensuing possession, Cousins fouled Gasol, then fouled him again while statement blocking his layup attempt after the whistle. Marc Gasol simply threw his hands up in the air and walked away. He's been friends with Zach Randolph and Tony Allen long enough to know when someone is certifiable crazy and shouldn't be messed with.
- Another All-Star level performance tonight from Mike Conley. 25 points, 6 assists, 2 rebounds, a steal and a block. He was efficient too, doing it on 8-13 from the field, 3-5 from deep, and 6-8 from the line. It's a crying shame he wont get any recognition or be involved in All-Star weekend, because he definitely deserves some love.
- James Johnson's stat sheet was stuffed to the rafters yet again, with 7 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 blocks, and a steal in 21 minutes, but this was definitely one of his more frustrating performances. Even still, if that's his worst night (and it generally has been) we can definitely live with it.
- Late in the fourth quarter, a fan sitting courtside took off his glasses, leaned over to the ref, and did a pretty funny "here, you need these more than I do" routine.
- Tonight was the first time my mom got to see the Grizzlies win live. She had previously been 0-3.
- I miss you Jon Leuer. I miss you so much…
- Those Kings uniforms are so great. I harp on wanting a home alternate or something new for the Grizzlies often, and when I see great uniforms like those, it makes me want them even more.
- Speaking of appearances, let's take a minute to talk about the pumpkin spiced shirt and tie combo Joerger was wearing tonight. I've noted his suit game had been elevated over the last few games, but tonight was as bad as it's ever been. Somebody get him a subscription to GQ or something, anything!
Memphis now climbs back to a game above .500, and several playoff seeds are within sight. They'll need to continue to work on a game-by-game basis, and it would be a really good idea for them to try to pick up some divisional wins in their next two games, but they continue to improve, and have now won five in a row, good for their longest winning streak of the season.
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