The Grizzlies shook off an early bout of post-Thanksgiving ennui, and basted the Blazers 112-99 in Portland last night.
Marc Gasol again led the team in scoring, dropping 26 points and dishing 9 assists, while Mike Conley aggressively flirted with triple-doubling, picking up 21 points, 10 rebounds, and 9 assists. After an ugly start gave the team a twelve point deficit, Memphis outscored Portland by 25 the rest of the way.
The Blazers surged to an 18-6 start, with a defense that stripped Gasol three times and a barrage of jump shots that splashed through the net, not so much as hitting the rim for about the first ten minutes. But a settling-in Grizzlies team got comfortable, the Blazers' shooting went astray, and Memphis cut the score to 25-23 after one.
The second quarter featured an extended run by the Grizzlies' emerging bench unit, an extension of my personal love and care towards Jon Leuer, and an extending of the Grizzlies' burgeoning lead. Quincy Pondexter smashed a second quarter three, as Q continues to settle into himself, and Beno Udrih got a little frisky to begin the quarter as well, canning a couple pull-up jumpers.
Speaking of Beno Udrih pull-up jumpers: they are unstoppable. I realize the insane hyperbole that is me saying Beno Udrih possesses an unstoppable offensive move, but I'm really freaking serious. There are two times I know a Memphis shot is going in: the Beno pullup and the Marc Gasol 17-foot set shot.
The Grizzlies bench continued to roll in the second quarter, employing a quick offense and a willingness to run on the break, which led to a bizarre sequence as scrawled in my notes:
TA pass, Leuer reverse!
Leuer a 3!
I literally had three straight Leuer annotations followed by !'s. I think I am reaching the point where I can admit I know nothing about basketball, or life.
The Grizzlies held a 52-43 halftime lead.
The third quarter was a nice Instagram photo of Grizzlies' basketball this season. Three steals early in the quarter yielded a quick 65-50 Grizz lead (a thing about the Grizzlies this year: when the team makes a steal or play in transition, they are swiftly and determinedly finishing the play on the offensive end. In years past, it was Tony-makes-a-steal-and-we-all-hold-our-breath-as-he-chucks-one-into-the-Mississippi-River).
Portland's Wesley Matthews then promptly hit all of the three pointers, bringing the Blazers back within seven, before the Grizzlies ended the quarter with some honest-to-God spectacular offensive plays. Conley made us involuntarily leap from our couches with a spin and righty scoop at the 3:47 mark, and spun a fancy dish to Marc at 2:30.
The play of the quarter came with :35 left, when Marc Gasol nailed a ridiculous fadeaway, giving him 14 points in the quarter, and prompting this from Brevin Knight: "It just makes you make the stanky face when he makes those moves." Yes, Brevin, it does.
Despite a comfortable 13-point lead heading to the fourth, the Blazers made a game of it, using their tried-and-true game plan of "have Wesley Matthews shoot wide-open threes". A Matthews-aided 10-0 Portland run cut the Memphis lead to 89-85 (that run also featured a fascinating post player face-off: Joel Freeland and Chris Kaman vs. Jon Leuer and Kosta Koufos). The Grizzlies played through Gasol the rest of the way, and closed the game out fairly easily, capping it off with a Pete Pranican hammer-meet-nail Tony Allen corner three (I keep tools near my couch and have my own hammer-meet-skull moments when Tony shoots threes).
The Grizzlies won 112-89, snapping Portland's nine-game winning streak, and impressively so. The Memphis defense only allowed one non-Wesley Matthews three pointer, kept LaMarcus Aldridge in check (19 points--you'll take that), and held Portland to 40% shooting. On offense, the team got 27 bench points (23 coming in the first half), shot 46% from three, and had six players score double figures.
Memphis is good at basketball right now. The Western Conference's current kings bring their 14-2 record to Sacramento on Sunday.