After an ugly loss to the Bucks to kick off the road trip, David Fizdale demanded his team’s effort on defense be better. Two days later, the message seems to have gotten through, as the Grizzlies managed to stave off a shorthanded Jazz team 102-96 to get a much-needed win on the road.
For what felt like the first time this season, the Grizzlies managed to get off to a hot start. The offense that had bogged down so badly to open games opened Monday night much more effective. Both Mike Conley and Marc Gasol were aggressive from the opening tip, and the Grizzlies finished the first quarter with a 33-26 lead behind their veteran leaders. They were able to push that lead slightly in the second quarter, and entered halftime up 56-48.
Then, in the second half, things sputtered. The offense went missing in spurts, and in spite of the fact that the Grizzlies were able to hold Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert in check, the lead disappeared behind a career-best night from Joe Ingles. Ingles finished the night with 20 points on 7-11 from the field and 4-7 from deep.
With their lead gone the game descended into a see-saw, back and forth affair. During this stretch the Grizzlies’ old issues reared their ugly head. The Jazz were able to find their way into the lane more easily into the second half. Add that to the fact that the Grizzlies could not get a shot to fall, a few ugly turnovers, and the Jazz pulling down offensive rebounds, and the Grizzlies’ eight point advantage had shrunk to three by the end of the third.
Fizdale, for his part, at least attempted to find a fix to the issues. Deyonta Davis saw 13 minutes of action, plenty of it beside Zach Randolph, in an attempt to add rim protection to the reserve unit.
In the end, it was the veterans that wound up putting this game away. With Z-Bo on the bench during crunch time, JaMychal Green came up with a key offensive rebound up two that allowed Marc to stretch the lead to five on an old-fashioned and-one three-point play to stretch the lead to five.
From there, the Grizzlies found just enough defense and were able to hit their foul shots (Conley added a nice pass to a cutting Vince for a big dunk, as well), and the Grizzlies escaped the game with a win.
Following the Vets
The Grizzlies got key contributions from free agent addition Chandler Parsons (9 points), along with JaMychal Green (8 points, 6 rebounds) and Andrew Harrison (5 points), but the biggest nights came from their veteran stars.
Marc Gasol and Mike Conley were both aggressive on the offensive end, contributing 22 points and 18 points respectively. Meanwhile, the bench unit was anchored by Zach Randolph (18 points, 10 rebounds) and Vince Carter (20 points, 7 rebounds).
Carter continues to be one of the biggest surprises of the season. After two years of mediocre play where it looked like the former high flyer might be done, Carter has discovered the fountain of youth. He contributes key minutes off the bench and has provided a scoring punch and savvy wing defense for a Memphis team in desperate need of both.
It remains to be seen how long Carter can continue to play a major role for this squad, but hopefully he’s able to at least hold up until Chandler Parsons, who’s still shaking off the rust, can get back to his old self.
The Grizzlies desperately needed this game. The Jazz started the night without George Hill and
Jordan Adams Rodney Hood, and had Gordon Hayward dealing with hand issues during the night. The Jazz will likely be fighting with the Grizzlies for one of the eight playoff spots, and winning a game against a team that’s not at full-strength is almost a must in this situation.
Fortunately, the Grizzlies were able to come through. This puts a 2-2 road trip, the bare minimum for success, back on the table. The Grizzlies will have their hands full tomorrow with the Clippers, but the Friday night game in Dallas seems much more winnable.
I’m assuming that Fizdale is a fan of Grizzly Bear Blues and read my piece on playing Davis and Randolph together more. But even if he didn’t, it’s good to see him giving the rookie big man playing time. Davis provides a dimension that none of the other bigs on Memphis’ bench offer, a dose of athleticism and rim protection that the Grizzlies desperately need. Hopefully this isn’t a one-off, and Fizdale continues to give the playing time he needs.
Next Up: The Grizzlies head out to Los Angeles for a showdown with the Clippers. The Grizzlies lost the last meeting between the two teams 98-88.