Dave Joerger’s embattled Sacramento Kings (featuring former Grizzlies Rudy Gay, Kosta Koufos and Matt Barnes), now 10-16, used some generous referee whistles and miserable shooting from the opposition to stave off a fourth quarter rally from David Fizdale’s Memphis Grizzlies (who fell to 18-10), despite pseudo-All Star Mike Conley’s first game back since suffering transverse process fractures in his lower back on November 28th. Transition defense really hurt Memphis, as Sacramento blew by them many a time on the fast break. The Grizzlies were held to just 37.7% shooting from the field on the night.
With 9:57 to go in the third quarter, Mike Conley scored his 8,967th career point on a free throw (but, characteristic of his in-game performance yesterday, he missed a follow-up free throw), surpassing Pau Gasol’s 8,966 points to become the all-time leading scorer in Memphis Grizzlies history (though it took Marc’s big brother six and a half seasons to achieve that distinction, and Conley has just kicked off his tenth).
Marc Gasol: B
20 points (6-of-18 FG, 0-of-4 3P, 8-of-8 FT), 6 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 blocks, 5 fouls, 1 turnover in 36 minutes (0 plus-minus)
Despite scoring an honorable 20 points the hard way (he made just a third of his 18 field goals), Gasol played good defense on DeMarcus Cousins, who had 22 points (on just 7-of-20 field goal shooting; he didn’t register a point in the final 7 minutes of the game, and fouled out with 1:27 left) and 9 boards. He, Randolph and JaMychal Green played lackluster defense, however, on old friend Kosta Koufos, now the Kings’ starting center.
Koufos sprang loose for an efficient 16 points (scored on 7-of-11 shooting), 13 boards (his first double-double of the year) and 3 blocks in just 29 minutes. Gasol also covered Big Spain had to take an early rest with 6:48 remaining in the third quarter after logging his fourth foul, and his absence immediately resonated on the court. But he had a redemptive fourth quarter, scoring 8 of his 20 points as he willed his team to the brink of victory, in a game Memphis trailed by double-digits for most of the night.
Mike Conley: C
8 points (2-of-7 FG, 0-of-3 3P, 4-of-5 FT), 3 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 steals, 1 block, 3 turnovers, 1 foul in 28 minutes (-2)
Farewell Toney Douglas. We hardly knew ye. But welcome back Mike Conley, even if you were outplayed by, uh, Darren Collison (11 points on 4-of-12 shooting, 6 assists, 2 rebounds, +2)! You had some rough turnovers and a bunch of unaggressive bricks. Ice that back a bit more and we’ll see you Sunday!
Tony Allen: A-
16 points (6-of-13 FG, 4-of-6 FT), 9 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 steals, 1 block, 2 turnovers, 2 fouls in 33 minutes (-6)
I don’t care what the plus-minus numbers say. Tony Allen was the most important Grizzlies player of the night. Sacramento continued to lead by 11 points with 4 minutes to go — and that’s when things got interesting. Playing his typical gritty defense, TA got it done on the other end as well, and tried his darnedest to get going when it mattered. He made two quick layups in just 25 seconds, cutting the team’s deficit to just 91-84.
JaMychal Green: B+
6 points (2-of-5 FG, 0-of-2 3PT, 2-of-2 FT), 8 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 block, 3 fouls in 20 minutes (-9)
Green’s play was mired by poor, inattentive defense on Kosta Koufos, his timidity around the basket (he was frequently out of position on the grass, and often settled for awkward jumpers, sometimes outside of the paint, early in the shot clock). The pogo stick out of Alabama is 4-for-20 in field goal shooting over his last three games.
Troy Williams: C
2 points (1-of-3 FG), 1 rebound, 0 assists, 1 block, 2 fouls, 1 turnover in 15 minutes (-2)
Williams had his only points of the game through a sweet run-out dunk in the middle of the second quarter, one of the few transition buckets the, uh, deliberately paced Memphis Grizzlies (the 28th-slowest team in the NBA according to Basketball-Reference) scored all night. As usual, he was in there for his athletic defense, and not much else. Vince Carter took some of his minutes, and Troy Daniels logged 12 more minutes played than the rookie Williams.
Troy Daniels: B+
13 points (4-of-11 FG, 4-of-9 3PT, 1-of-1 FT), 2 rebounds, 2 fouls, 1 turnover in 27 minutes (+3)
Troy Daniels has been a much, much more satisfying signing for Chris Wallace and John Hollinger than Chandler Parsons to this point in the season, as he and an All-NBA level Marc Gasol have been the Grizz’s sole reliable 3-point shooters this year (Daniels is averaging a solid 36.1% from deep thus far, but a fantastic 47.8% since November 30th). Daniels was responsible for Memphis’s first triple of the night, which only arrived 13:43 into the proceedings. Later, Daniels joined Allen as one of the most clutch contributors to Memphis’s late-game rally, as he made two triples in the contest’s final 2:14, the last one with 55 seconds remaining to cut Sacramento's lead to 95-92. Overall, Daniels contributed 4 of Memphis’s 5 3-point makes on the eve, a ratio of success that one would hope improves with the returns of James Ennis and Chandler Parsons on the horizon.
Andrew Harrison: B
11 points (2-of-4 FG, 1-of-2 3PT, 6-of-8 FT), 1 rebound, 1 assist, 2 blocks, 6 fouls (Harrison fouled out of his second game in a row, although one of those fouls was a bogus offensive foul called with 1:59 remaining in the second quarter, on a play where Harrison was clearly the victim of a hack by Garrett Temple), 2 turnovers in 19 minutes (-12)
With great defensive moxie, Andrew Harrison has quietly grit and ground his way into the Rookie Of The Year conversation, a performance reality even the big national outlets can no longer deny. He is leading the rookie class of 2016-17 in assists (3.6), steals (1.3) and minutes played (733 total, 27.1 per game). The reason Joel Embiid isn’t exactly sweating his ROY trophy just yet? Harrison is shooting just 29% from the field, a stat that has been somewhat salvaged in his scoring from the foul line (he has knocked down 76.4% of his 3.3 free-throw attempts), averaging 7.2 points a night. He fouled out with 9:18 remaining in the fourth quarter (TA subbed in for him),
Zach Randolph: B
10 points (4-of-9 FG, 2-of-2 FT), 9 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 blocks, 4 fouls (Harrison fouled out of his second game in a row), 1 turnover in 27 minutes (+3)
Though his jump-shooting (he went 2-of-3) and defense (!) against DeMarcus Cousins marked some of the few bright spots in Memphis’s rough third quarter, and practically notched another double-double with a 10-point, 9-rebound night in a mere 27 minutes, Zach Randolph needs to give his Grizzlies a bit more of that great interior scoring touch.
With JaMychal Green struggling again to get it done on that end, Z-Bo needed to take it to DeMarcus Cousins and Kosta Koufos in the paint more than he did. To be fair, he had a very nice passing night, including a pretty drop-off beneath the bucket to Marc Gasol with 8:32.
Zach Randolph is now being outpaced for Sixth Man Of The Year honors by Eric Gordon (ugh), 2015 Sixth Man Lou Williams (crushing it for a surprisingly mediocre Lakers team) and Patty Mills on a 21-5 Spurs team (Mills and his 6% body fat are now probably better than Spurs starting point guard Tony Parker, but Pop wouldn’t dare bench his future Hall of Fame PG).
Unless he can get his slash line up a bit from 13.3 points and 8 boards a game, he won’t be too far ahead of the reigning champ, Z-Bo’s former Knicks teammate Jamal Crawford, yet again. But Z-Bo is still very much in the mix for some year-end hardware, assuming the Grizzlies keep winning as much as they have been.
Vince Carter: C-
2 points (1-of-5 FG, 1-of-2 3PT, 6-of-8 FT), 1 rebound, 1 assist, 2 blocks, 6 fouls (Harrison fouled out of his second game in a row), 2 turnovers in 19 minutes (-12)
In just his third game back after a hip injury sidelined him for three weeks, Carter continued his scoring struggles, going just 1-of-5 from the field. Vinsanity has made just 4 of his 13 field goal attempts in his three games back, and is averaging 3.7 points a game (a significant drop-off from his 8.5 point-per-game average this season). Carter doesn’t get the low grade of the night here only because his on-court leadership (and smart, if slow, defense) remains fun to watch, as he is one of the most vocal communicators on the floor (his puzzled face after a misguided Andrew Harrison possession in the third was especially classic).
Jarell Martin: D+
4 points (1-of-2 FG, 0-of-1 3PT, 2-of-2 FT), 2 rebounds, 1 steal, 4 fouls, 1 turnover in 12 minutes (-6)
I’m thinking Martin is the first to get entirely squeezed out of the rotation when James Ennis and Chandler Parsons return to action within the next week.