Memphis 102 - Phoenix 91
Despite tipping off in Phoenix without a loss on the record, the Grizzlies had failed to put together a solid performance for four quarters in any of their previous contests this season. The same can no longer be said after the game in Phoenix.
After winning all four games against the Suns last season, the Grizzlies entered Phoenix with a pretty good idea how to emerge victorious. The Grizzlies pose innumerable matchup problems for the Suns, and that continued to be painfully obvious under the bright lights of the U.S. Airways Center.
Things began normally enough with the Grizzlies starting slow out of the gate as they are prone to do. The physicality of Eric Bledsoe clearly bothered Conley at times, and it appeared as if he would hurt the Grizzlies all night after a perfect shooting performance from the field and fourteen points in the opening quarter. Markieff Morris showed out in the first as well, netting nine points all against Zach Randolph. Z-Bo has long struggled against bigs that can stretch the floor, and he was rendered helpless when Morris pulled him out to the three-point line. It was kind of like watching Sandra Bullock in Gravity. Despite all the help George Clooney provides, Bullock is utterly useless in space and outside of her element. Spoiler alert I guess.
The Grizzlies responded to being punched in the mouth by Bledsoe and the Morris brother with the difficult first name to spell by catching fire themselves. Through good off-ball movement, Courtney Lee was able to find himself wide open on two three-point attempts in the quarter, and he buried both. Mike Conley attacking aggressively paid off, as he finished the quarter with six points and two assists.
Things got a little ugly for the Grizzlies in the second quarter when Coach Joerger inserted all five reserves at the same time. They clearly have not gelled together through five games, and Joerger did the sensible thing of not playing all of them at the same time anymore after seeing the forest fire they created in the five minutes they were on the floor together. Without Conley's steadying presence and much-needed scoring, things would have been much worse for the Grizzlies entering the half. Eventually, it's going to bite the Grizzlies if the starters must continue putting out fires the bench unit creates on a nightly basis.
In the third quarter, the Suns saw their biggest lead of the game (9) evaporate quickly when they couldn't stop involuntarily handing the ball back to the Grizzlies. The Grizzlies capitalized, creating easy offense from the transition opportunities that ensued following the turnovers. Lee continued his strong offensive night in the third, scoring nine points in a variety of ways from almost every area of the floor. Aside from suffering a concussion against the Pacers, Lee's had a near perfect start to the season.
Entering the fourth quarter up five points, the Grizzlies did nothing but broaden the gap the rest of the way. Gasol got his mojo going down low, and the Suns simply lacked an answer for Big Spain. Holding down the three-headed guard monster of Bledsoe, Goran Dragic, and Isaiah Thomas is no easy feat, but the Grizzlies backcourt held them in check late in the game, making it impossible for the Suns to mount a comeback. Conley, Lee, and Quincy Pondexter deserve a tremendous amount of credit for that.
Random Positive Notes
- Courtney Lee starting the season like this is encouraging after the slump he went through at the end of last season. He's created instant spacing when he's been in the game because of his shooting ability and movement off the ball. It's good to have this version of Lee back, and it's great that he's healthy again to boot after his concussion.
- I think Chris Herrington of the Commercial Appeal pointed this out first on twitter, but the number of great dimes Gasol drops where the recipient doesn't end up making the shot is amazing. Even though Grizz nation drools over his passing ability, he still doesn't get the attention he deserves nationally for his ability as an offensive facilitator.
- After a slow start to the season, maybe Conley is finally settling into a groove offensively.
- The Grizzlies defense is suffocating. Opponents have struggled to even get set up for plays they want to run because the Grizzlies do a tremendous job of running them off their spots.
- There's nothing wrong with Vince Carter. Lee had the hot hand tonight, so Joerger wisely chose to ride with him rather than sub in Carter. There will certainly be games this season where the opposite is true.
Random Negative Notes
- There are none, silly. The Grizzlies are 5-0.
In the end, an unfamiliar offensive outburst coupled with a quintessential, stingy defensive effort led the Grizzlies past the Suns, 102-91. 5-0 is an odd place for the Grizzlies to be in - not because they aren't good enough to currently be at the top of the league but because this level of success is unprecedented for the franchise. It's fair to be skeptical of how many more games they can win before taking a loss. However, if there's one thing you should know about the Grizzlies by now, it's never ever count them out.