The Memphis Grizzlies got off to a successful start in their post All-Star break campaign on Sunday night.
The Grizz traveled to Denver to take on the Nuggets and picked up a nice win over a young, solid basketball team, by a 105-98 score.
This win was fueled by the three key members of the Memphis core: Mike Conley, Marc Gasol, and Zach Randolph. All three had very good performances and were the only three Memphis players in double figures. Gasol also played very good on the defensive end to neutralize rising star Nikola Jokic.
Not everything went well for Memphis but when the Big Three are on, it’s typically a good night for the Grizz.
The Old Guard Delivers
Conley, Gasol, and Randolph have been so reliable for so many years in Memphis and we saw another product of that in this game.
Conley led the way in scoring with 31 points to go along with five assists, four rebounds and two steals as he dominated and helped control the tempo of this game for the Grizzlies.
Gasol played a very big role on both ends of the floor.
“Big Spain” was very efficient, scoring 23 points, on 9-of-17 shooting, to go with five boards and six dimes in a normal offensive night for the All-Star center. But he defense on Jokic was maybe a bigger contribution.
He held the young star to just 10 points and forced other players for the Nuggets to win them the game.
Z-Bo pulled off a bruising, old-school performance for himself with 20 points and 11 rebounds in a big double-double off the bench. Names like Eric Gordon and Lou Williams dominate the Sixth Man of the Year discussion, but don’t overlook Randolph down the stretch.
This performance by these three men helped slow down the pace of the game and ground an offense for Denver that has shown very explosive tendencies.
Looking for Consistent Assistance
Outside of the trio of Conley, Gasol, and Randolph, the Grizzlies did not get great help from their role players in this game.
That spotlight immediately shines on big free-agent fish, Chandler Parsons.
Parsons went scoreless in 21 minutes played and was, frankly, a big liability on both ends of the floor. He had a -10 plus-minus, the worst on the team, and was abused when matched up with Danilo Gallinari.
Gallinari routinely gave Parsons a disrespectful amount of room to shoot the ball and Parsons never made him pay. Gallo also Denver’s leading scorer with 24 point, even if that is not all on Parsons.
But the other pieces didn’t really step up either.
Tony Allen was the fifth-leading scorer with eight points on as many shots in an inefficient offensive night. But “The Grindfather” made up for his offensive struggles with a great defensive day that included five steals. If he can consistently be slightly more sharp on offensive, Allen will be playing his part perfectly.
Troy Daniels, Vince Carter, and Toney Douglas all were just kind of there.
None of them had more than six points but did not mess up that badly, either. The Memphis second unit played well as a whole but that was largely due to the play of Randolph.
The brightest spot offensively, outside of the main three guys, was JaMychal Green.
Green had a near double-double with nine points on three field goal attempts and 10 rebounds. His energy was great and the Nuggets were forced to respect him, opening chances for Gasol to create for himself and others.
The Grizzlies are now 10 games over .500 at 35-25 and are just one game back of the Utah Jazz for the fifth seed in the West.
Memphis has been a very good team to this point and this win was a great start to the final stretch of the season.
Conley, Gasol, and Randolph have been as steady and reliable as ever this season. If the other pieces can gel more consistently, then no one will want to draw the Grizzlies in the playoffs.
But those other guys need to step up.
Here’s to hoping that Parsons can earn his money down the stretch. Because Memphis needs the good version of him for the long haul.