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Grizzlies prove to Denver that they’re the team to fear

Amazing victory without Conley against the Denver Nuggets, that included the Grizzlies putting on one hell of a defensive show, and torching the Nuggets in the paint.

Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

Game Diary: Grizzlies 99, Nuggets 69

Author's note: I haven't done one of these yet this year, but all four I did last winter were really competitive games (HoLee win against the Kings, heartbreaking loss against the Spurs, contested win against Heat, and hard loss at home against the Bulls), so 2-2 for my recap standings before this one. When I realized while watching Gallinari throwing bricks and Faried getting dominated by ZBo that the game was gonna be an easy win, I just thought, let's take the easy win, man, because after all the Grit & Grind you've gone through as a Grizzlies fan, you deserve it.

Pregame

I wish I could say: I am settling into my court-side seat at the FedExForum ready to watch the game and drink a beer. But reality is that now it's breakfast time in a small country of Europe where I am, and it's a free morning for me, so I am just seated in front of my laptop with a glass of orange juice and a croissant in my vicinity. I didn't watch the entire match last night, so now it's time to watch it closely while I write some Grizzlies words (I hope they keep flowing).

"And we welcome you from Memphis, Tennessee, and the spectacular FedExForum," said the TNT broadcaster Brian Anderson. (Damn! Just watching the introductory video of the match gave me goosebumps.) It's national TV, amigos, and then Reggie Miller began giving some love to the Grizzlies.

"I think this team, even before Jeff Green came, was the best team in the West, and they do two things great: they pound the paint with the two big guys, Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol, and they have a great floor general in Mike Conley... THEY ARE TOUGH TO BEAT."

There would be no Mike Conley (because of a left wrist injury he already missed the last two games for) for the Grizzlies against the Nuggets, though. Beno Udrih will start alongside Lee, Green, Zach, and Marc. And for Denver, Lawson, Afflalo, Chandler, Faried, and Nurkic (booooooo). Game ON.

First Quarter

➭ 12:00 - First possession for the Nuggets, Faried shot and missed, and ZBo got the rebound. Meanwhile, Reggie kept saying he is a little bit shocked that the team with the third best record in the Association is only going to have one All-Star player.

➭ 11:24 - Marc Gasol versus Jusuf Nurkic. The match-up everyone was waiting for. Gasol got the ball and shot a long two. Ole! First bucket of the game. Watch out, Jusuf! It's Marc's birthday, and he wants to celebrate. 

➭ 9:55 - Good Grizzlies defense and two consecutive great plays by Beno. First going strong into the lane for the layup and then fast break no-looking dish to Courtney Lee, who smiles with Z-Bo while returning to defense. 6-2, and a happy start for Memphis.

➭ 7:54 - ZBo pounding inside. Bang, bang, bang, back versus Faried's chest, then turning around, right hand, the ball flies, touches the glass and then just net. Zach "too strong, too fast, and too sweet" Randolph. The Grindhouse knows it. And Reggie too. He said, "There is absolutely no way Faried is going to stop Zach Randolph in the paint one on one".

➭ 6:22 - Marc Gasol vs. Jusuf Nurkic again. And same result. Good defense by Nurkic. Better offense by #33, scoring a long two from the left side of the court. 9-15 for the Grizzlies shooting 7 of 10 from the field.

➭ 4:04 - Lee and Gasol (two fouls) out, Allen and Koufos in. Then Nurkic missed, Beno running the court, passed to Green, and 3! Denver could not buy a bucket and every rebound was owned by "our mid-season MVP" and beloved Zach, who, I'm telling you, is faster than ever moving his feet on offense against the younger Faried. So awesome to watch! 

➭ 1:00 - Tony Allen couldn't finish twice at the rim against the big fellas of Denver, the Nuggets ran for the easy basket, but oh oh oh, Z-Bo stole the ball, ran the fast break, passed to Green (who is always running thirsty for Grizzlies highlights) and DUN... Denver fouled him. 1 of 2 free throws made, offensive rebound by Koufos, he missed, offensive rebound by Allen and two more.

➭ 0:33 - Gallinari tried from long range. It was ugly. Not even close. (Denver, you have nothing to do tonight.) 11-26 for the Grizzlies, and 5 points and 8 rebounds for Randolph.

Second Quarter

➭ 11:15 - Koufos, Leuer, Vince, Allen and Calathes on the floor. Darrell Arthur too, and he knocked down his first shot. Also on the floor for the Nuggets Hickson, Gallinari, Foye and Nelson.

➭ Watching Calathes and Koufos playing well for the Grizzlies always makes me happy, since I'd always had a hell of a time wandering around Greece, and I know after talking with many Greek people how proud they are of their compatriots playing for a great and underdog team like the Grizzlies.

➭ 8:35 - In the commercial break Marc speaks, and when he does we listen to him: "Joerger's system has allowed us to reach another dimension of the game. We can get to the hundreds easily, and you know, when we get to the hundred, is really tough to beat us".

➭ 5:30 - Scary moment of the night. Chandler scored the long two while a couple inches away Vince got hurt on his left ankle. Game was on but Carter couldn't move and the timeout was called. It was weird, because he didn't jump or fall or twist or anything. His leg extended, his foot was touching the court, and suddenly some muscle must have suffered some kind of hyper-extension. Let's wait to hear what doctors say. But damn, it's like our dear Vinsanity can't catch a break.

➭ 4:26 - Zach Randolph absolutely bullying Kenneth Faried with two consecutive buckets in the paint. And even "bullying" seems like a soft word for what ZBo was doing to that kid known for his high-energy style of basketball and with the nickname of "Manimal". Z-Bo is a bad man. He just doesn't care. Then Reggie said about Vince's injury: "It's never fun to get old". But looking at ZBo, I don't know about that any more.

➭ 2:57 - Biggest lead so far of the game for the Grizzlies, 27-46, after a flying running jumper by the 30-year-old Gasol, who is, by the way, another bad basketball man who doesn't care about birthdays but with a big and familiar heart too. He said before the game: "I'm not really interested in birthdays anymore, except it's now my first birthday as a father." And that's not just sweet but swell too.

➭ 0:03 - Couple dunks for the Nuggets, couple missed threes by Green, and 35-50 for the local team going into the halftime.

Halftime

➭ Charles Barkley, TNT halftime report: "I think the Memphis Grizzlies are the best team in the Western Conference." BOOM!

Third Quarter

➭ 10:57 - Defensive rebound for ZBo. The eleventh in a row double-double for him. Then two more points in the paint for Marc. "The best big man duo in the whole league," Reggie's words not mine.

➭ 6:08 - And second 3! by Green, who raised his arms to the sky like saying: "Damn, yeah, finally!". 2 of 5 so far for him.

➭ 4:11 - "You gotta be kidding me. That's outstanding work on the offensive glass," said Reggie Miller. No kidding, Reggie. That's why WE ALL LOVE ZACH RANDOLPH!!! 

➭ 3:34 - Or when the best Courtney Lee moment of the game happened. Haha, Tony Allen couldn't stop laughing for a long while. 

➭ 1:10 - 9-0 run by the Grizzlies with Lee all over the place and Calathes ruling the offense. And third quarter ended 49-74 while Memphians were enjoying of a wonderful night at FedExForum.

Fourth Quarter

➭ 11:30 - Calathes, #JordanAdamsComing, Allen, Leuer and Koufos starting in the last period.

➭ 9:17 - Then the game wasn't obviously that interesting, and broadcasters spoke a little bit about this matter (see the picture below), which I've been arguing in my country for the last couple years, but I think now that they are both All-Star Starters, I'm going to stop thinking about it and just enjoy and be proud of, from both perspectives, as a Spaniard and as a Grizzly fan (noted what Reggie said: "right now, I am going with Marc." This Reggie is a wise dude, man). 

➭ 6:45 - Get healthy, Gallo! It's not fun at all to watch you running clumsily the floor and shooting bricks like that (it was fun, however, to watch the 2 of 22 threes by the Denver Nuggets).

➭ 5:06 - #13 Tyrus Thomas out there on the court for the Grizzlies.

➭ 2:10 - "Sorry, Shaq, but he (Marc) is the best center in the game," said Reggie, who spent the whole last quarter speaking about Gasol and BBQs in Beale Street. And I'm feeling like maybe I'm also writing more about what Reggie was saying than about the real fourth quarter. No doubt. I reckon that.

➭ 0:01 - Done. Easy win, 69-99 for the Grizzlies (34-12) against the Denver Nuggets (19-28). Zach Randolph was the MVP of the game scoring 15 points and catching 17 rebounds. Good news were that no Grizzly played more than 30 minutes, and also that every starter scored in double digits.

Postgame

➭ Courtney Lee: "I just think we've got our rhythm back, and we're going back to our true identity, which is on the defensive end".

➭ Tony Allen: "It was big for us to come out here and get some redemption against a team that kind of smacked us in the face in Denver".

➭ Marc Gasol: "Defensively, I thought we have taken another notch, and that is our strength. That's always been our strength, and that's always going to be our strength".

➭ Darrel Arthur: "There are days like that. Unfortunately, that day was today".

➭ See you soon, Oklahoma City (out of the Playoffs and still with one All-Star player more than the actual third best team in the NBA...) Thunder. SEE.YOU.SOON.