Tuesday night marked Lionel Hollins' first trip back to FedExForum since he wasn't re-signed by the Memphis front office, and his former "puppies" were out to show the old coach just how far they'd come. This game had everything: ZBo coast-to-coast fast breaks, Jeff Green alley oop dunks, the inability to hold large leads, Tony Allen 3s, and uncomfortable dating shows. In the final home game before the All-Star Break, Memphis beat the Brooklyn Nets in a game that ended up being much closer than it ever should have been.
Things started off well for the Grizzlies who opened up the game with a 22-9 lead, thanks in large part to their effort on the defensive side of the ball. Memphis had five steals in the quarter that they cashed in for six points, and two Zach Randolph highlights. Off of a Marc Gasol rebound, the Big Fella went coast to coast and shook his defender with a crossover dribble before attacking the basket for a layup. Two possessions later, while running the break on a Mike Conley steal, Randolph went for the one-handed power slam. He was, unfortunately, denied by gravity and the back of the rim, but that sequence was indicative of the energy the Grizzlies would play with for a majority of the night.
Had Memphis been able to play with that kind of intensity and precision all game, they would be incredibly well rested heading into a tough contest in Oklahoma City, but as we all know, that simply isn't how the Grizzlies do things.
After entering the second quarter with a 32-15 lead, and seeing it balloon to as many as 20, Memphis let Brooklyn climb back into the game. The Nets went on a 10-2 run in the span of 1:21 to cut the lead to 11 with 5:03 to play in the half. Memphis would clamp down on defense, allowing only eight more points in the half, but couldn't extend the lead while on offense, as they made only two field goals in the final five minutes of the quarter and lead 52-40 at the half.
Coming out of the break, Courtney Lee caught fire and went on a personal 8-1 run to help extend the Grizzlies lead back to 19. Lee showed just how much of a weapon he can be to the Memphis offense, as he was able to score from everywhere on the court during the quarter, including cashing in two attempts from beyond the arc. The Grizzly lead stood at 22 with less than three minutes remaining in the quarter, but Jarrett Jack and Mason Plumlee combined for 11 points in the final 2:32 of the period, and cut the lead to 13 heading into the fourth.
Brooklyn took advantage of poor ball movement and classic Memphis execution to cut the lead all the way down to seven, forcing the Grizzlies to bring back Mike Conley and Marc Gasol, who had been resting for the majority of the quarter. With the Grizzlies needing a bucket, Marc Gasol pulled down a monstrous offensive rebound and kicked it back out to Mike Conley, who drove to the basket and found Zach Randolph for the easy layup to ice it, and Memphis would win 95-86.
Game Notes from the Legend-wait for it-Diary
- Marc Gasol will own the All-Star game. He may not be the leading scorer, or even put in a single basket, but his passing alone with fill the highlight reels for years to come. In the first quarter tonight, he pulled down an offensive rebound with one hand, looked up ahead to Tony Allen, and with a small flick of his wrist, flung the ball on a line halfway down the court and found TA for the (relatively) easy layup. This man is truly a pleasure to watch play the game.
- After Chris Vernon gave a guarantee that Mike Conley would score 20 points tonight, he came out and dropped two (2) on 1/8 shooting. Someone needs to stop this man from making any and all predictions.
- In his first game back to the forum, the Grizzlies put together a nice video montage for Lionel Hollins, and then treated him to a standing ovation, which was very nice to see from an excellent fan base and overall organization. The way Lionel left wasn't ideal, and some fans still have a bad taste in their mouths, but this was the right thing to do for a man who once meant and did so much for the city.
- Rob Fischer's shoes tonight were an absolute atrocity and he should be forced to walk the earth barefoot for the remainder of his days.
- Kevin Garnett had 2 points, 3 rebounds, and 2 blocks in 14 minutes. Father Time still the GOAT.
- The good people at Fox would be wise to go ahead and ink Vince Carter to a contract to provide color commentary for all their games. VC is a natural on the mic, and adds phenomenal insight to an already talented crew of Pete Pranica and Brevin Knight.
- Jeff Green picked up two fouls in the first four minutes of the game. He ended the night still having just the two fouls. Great job of adjusting to Joe Johnson's style of play, and being smarter on defense.
The win moves Memphis to 39-13 on the year. Tonight, they are in Oklahoma City taking on a red hot Thunder team that features a very ornery Kevin Durant. This is their last game before the break, and they'll look to end what has already been a pretty remarkable first half on a high-note, while also dealing another blow to the playoff hopes of the team that sent them packing last year.