Quincy Pondexter rose from the dead, Jon Leuer really, really rose from the dead, and the Grizzlies claimed the NBA's best record by hammering Houston at FedEx Forum.
There were so many things to be gleeful about -- Memphis assailing three pointers; James Harden's six (!) points; a nice run for the rookies; and Dwight Howard's eschewing of pivot feet -- that I feel like Brevin Knight trying to form sentences on live television immediately following that Leuer dunk. Let's take it by quarter.
The Grizzlies began the game in a bit of a strange offensive funk, trailing 13-9 after a handful of bricks and a Tony Allen technical. James Harden was flopping like one of the all-time greats (at flopping) that he is, and he was getting the calls.
Then Memphis simply went one of your classic 23-5 runs to end the quarter. Courtney Lee made an impressive mid-air interception/steal. Mike Conley wore out Dwight Howard with a little hesitation dribble-righty floater combo (he'd go on to do this a couple more times on poor Dwight). Marc Gasol lead a fast break charge that ended with a Courtney Lee finish. Then Quincy Pondexter dunked. Then Lee, Conley, and Pondexter hit threes.
We'll have to get Rob Fischer on this, but I'm pretty sure Kevin McHale told his team, "Forget all you know about basketball! Pass the ball around willy-nilly with no regard for its care! While you're at it, leave that Quincy guy open -- he looks like he could use some confidence."
The Grizzlies led 34-18 after the first quarter.
The second quarter was a blissful continuation of the first. The run that began in the first quarter became a 30-7 spurt thanks to a little second quarter Beno-ing, which led to a Rockets timeout.
Lots of interesting second quarter nuggets here:
Kosta Koufos can guard Dwight Howard. This is just true.
Pete Pranica, on air: "I thought this Rockets team was a better defensive team." I know that Houston entered the game with some impressive defensive numbers and I know it's reductive and easy to say this, but the team gainfully employs James Harden and Dwight Howard as 40% of their five-man defensive effort. How good can they possibly be defensively?
How many turnovers does Dwight Howard have? 45?
You can tell Vince Carter is a smart, intuitive defender. You can also tell that Tony Allen is, well, sometimes not a smart, intuitive defender. At one point in the second quarter, Allen lost Harden on a basket cut, and Beno Udrih had to help, which left Patrick Beverley open for three, which Beverley made. This happens too regularly for Tony.
*Two disparaging remarks about Jon Leuer's second quarter play have been removed by the same winged god who alighted in Leuer's loins and lifted his body and spirit to make his fourth quarter dunk.*
Vince Carter threw a touchdown pass to Tony Allen. Then Vince got out on a break and went up for an...accidental alleyoop to himself? Either way, it still looked kind of cool, and Vince laughed to himself about it.
Two more threes from Quincy to end the half. The Grizzlies dropped 65 first half points. They forced 15 Houston turnovers (it honestly felt like more than that). The game already felt over.
The third quarter got off to a somewhat shoddy Grizzly start, but it was undeniably enjoyable when, after another Harden flop, Pete Pranica said, "And that's why Harden is widely disliked outside of Houston." I've never met him, but I get the sense that Pete Pranica is a delightful man and that we'd be best friends -- one does not get the sense that he and James Harden would be best friends. There's a special James Harden-labeled reserve of Pranica hate that no other NBA player gets from the Grizzlies announcer.
Anyway, the third quarter was played at Houston's pace, but without any sort of continuity or pleasure. At one point, Marc Gasol took the ball away from Isaiah Canaan in a way that honestly would've made me cry if I was Canaan.
Later, the Grizzlies went up by 30 (!) on a Beno Udrih layup. Beno: good at reverse layups. Jon Leuer: not so good at them.
For good measure -- and it was surely good -- Courtney Lee added two more threes (!) before the end of the quarter. Does Courtney Lee have a beautiful jumper or an ugly one? Does it matter? I think it's lovely and wonderful. Memphis was up by 31 after three.
Let's talk about Kosta Koufos' little running hook shot thingy: when he makes it, he's really good. Of course, I have vivid memories of Koufos launching that hook thingy directly at the back iron, the ball pinging off at 30 mph. Anyway, he made several of these last night.
The fourth quarter included the first-ever Jarnell Stokes appearance, during which he schooled Tarik Black a couple times during last night's little fourth quarter Memphis family reunion. Jordan Adams also scored his first official NBA point
s on a fourth quarter free throw.
But the real story of the fourth quarter (the night?) was...umm...
I wrote in my notes: "JON LEUER JUST CHANGED MY LIFE I JUST GOT SAVED"
So there's that. This might have been my church camp conversion experience with Jon Leuer. Stay tuned.
(Also, I hope someone will check on Tayshaun Prince this morning -- I think the Leuer dunk killed him. No really. It might have.)
In the end, the Grizzlies won 119-93, a 26 point blowout that was actually somehow much worse than the final score indicated. The team led by as many as 36, which Pete Pranica told us was the fourth biggest lead in franchise history (!). The cool thing about that is, well, it didn't even feel historic -- it felt like, Yep, this is what we're doing, we are beating the literal hell out of Houston. So maybe, on Memphis' best nights, "beating the literal hell out of Houston" is not just a pipe dream -- it's actually possible.
PS: Jon Leuer had more than twice as many points (13) as James Harden (6). Hahahahahahahahahahahahahaha. This is my favorite and most confusing thing that's happened to me in years.