Your Memphis Grizzlies kicked off their match-up against the host Minnesota Timberwolves in Minneapolis’s Target Center a bit understaffed. After being expected to suit up, nominal starters Tony Allen and Chandler Parsons notched DNP - Coach’s Decision’s, and Grizzlies All-Star Marc Gasol was a DNP - REST on this night. Resting these heavy hitters was a bold move that turned out to be quite sage, as the Fizz Grizz* eked out the W anyway (moving their team record to 31-22, 6th in the West, and two games out of the 4th seed), behind a career turn from Gasol’s normal front court running mate JaMychal Green. Green had some help from still-healthy All-Star snub Mike Conley, who chipped in with a solid night of his own.
Conley, Green and Co.’s opposition on this night was Tom Thibodeau’s Minnesota Timberwolves (now 19-32, somehow amazingly 3.5 games back), who themselves were down a starter, too — albeit just one, not three: athletic super-freak Zach LaVine, ruled out for the season with an ACL injury (probably the injury that Tom Thibodeau hates the very most).
*Quick note on the “Fizz Grizz” nickname: I know how David Fizdale spells his name, okay? “Fiz Grizz” just looks weird. Thank you.
JaMychal Green: A-
Green was the star of the show, with a series of athletic cuts, dunks, and lay-ins. The pogo stick showed that when he’s keyed-in and playing at his speed, he makes sense as the fully healthy Grizzlies’ starting power forward over Zach Randolph.
Green’s line: 29 points (8-of-11 from the field, including 1-of-2 three-point shooting; plus an insane 12-of-12 from the free throw line), 6 boards, 1 assist, 1 steal, 1 block, and a +3 plus-minus.
Zach Randolph: C+
The 6’9” Z-Bo, who just permanently pulled ahead of Enes Kanter in the Sixth Man Of The Year race (to be fair, it’s Eric Gordon’s award to lose, but darn it, Z-Bo’s going to be a top-5 vote-getter!), had a solid rebounding night jumping center against future 10-time All-Star Karl-Anthony Towns. Earlier this week, Jay Siskin noted that Z-Bo has been having one of the most efficient seasons ever in his storied career, at the basketball-advanced aged of 35.
That said, though — yeesh, the poor man couldn’t buy a bucket. He was 3-of-15 from the field (20%, the second-most field goal attempts on the night)!! But hey, in 30 minutes of action he had 10 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, 1 block, a +4 plus-minus... and, oh yeah, he fouled out with 5:02 left in the fourth quarter, with his team only up 82-80 over Minnesota. He was whistled for some nominal contact against KAT (who had 27 and 16 in the contest). Demerits.
Randolph (capitalizing on some second-chance opportunities thanks to that savvy rebounding), along with Conley and Green, was pivotal in helping Memphis get back into the contest, after being down by as many as 18 points, 33-15, early in the second period.
Andrew Harrison: C-
Starting at the 2-spot as TA’s sub, Harrison had an ineffective offensive night. He went 1-of-5 from the field (matching Z-Bo’s 20% field goal conversion rate for the worst number on the team) for 3 points, had 1 rebound, 2 assists, and... a -17 plus-minus. Troy Daniels and Vince Carter thoroughly outplayed Harrison; each scored 11 points (on 3-of-7 shooting for Vinsanity and 4-of-8 shooting for Daniels), and grabbed multiple triples in so doing (Carter had 3, Daniels had 2).
Mike Conley: B+
This was the hardest grade to assess. It’s like reading a fantastically constructed and thought-out AP English essay rife with spelling gaffes. Even though Conley had 20 points, 8 assists, 3 rebounds, and a stellar +16 plus-minus (the second-highest number on the team last night), I can’t give him anything higher than a B+ because the dude was 5-of-16 from the field in 36 minutes. If you want to be an All-Star injury replacement, shooting 31.2% from the floor isn’t going to cut it, even if you’re facing Ricky Rubio, a decent if unspectacular defender, in a Thibodeau defensive scheme. Conley also had a few frustrating turnovers (3 total), including one half-court pass to no one in the first quarter. But the man knows a lot about grit, and he ground his way to the charity stripe three separate times in the game’s closing 83 seconds, good for 6 of Memphis’s final 10 points. He had 11 of his 20 points in the game’s last quarter, when it mattered most.
James Ennis: B
Playing 35 minutes as Chandler Parsons’s sub, Ennis had 13 points (going 4-of-5 from the field, including 3-of-3 from deep, and 2-of-2 from the free throw line), 6 rebounds, 1 assist, and 2 steals. He was +5 on the night.
Let’s talk about just how much more efficiently James Ennis has played than Chandler Parsons, on a much cheaper deal this season (two years, $6 million total for Ennis, as opposed to a six-year, $94 million deal for Parsons), shall we? Ennis, in just 25.7 minutes a night, is averaging 7.8 points (on 46.2% field goal shooting, 41.1% shooting from three-point range, and 78.5% free throw shooting), 4.4 rebounds, and 1.1 assists. Oh, and he’s played in 39 games (still not a great sum, considering the Grizz have played in a total of 53 contests).
Parsons, still operating on a minutes limit into the indefinite future (he’s averaging 18.8 minutes a night), is averaging 6.7 points (on a pathetic 35.9% shooting from the field and 25% from the three-point line, and a very good 90.3% from the free throw line), 2.1 rebounds, and 1.5 assists. He’s played in 23 games to date. Obviously Parsons’s ceiling is quite higher than that of Ennis, but what if we haven’t even seen his floor yet? How bad can he get?
It’s nice to see that Brandan Wright is still alive after all, no? The aforementioned Carter and Daniels played pretty well (Carter hitting back-to-back three-pointers at one point really helped key a permanent momentum shift for Memphis), and Wright was solid in 20 minutes (4 points on 2-of-6 shooting wasn’t so great, but the 6 rebounds and 2 steals he chipped in were helpful).
New (re-) addition Toney Douglas was somehow a +24 in 21 minutes of game action, despite scoring just 7 points and grabbing 7 rebounds, 1 assist, and 4 fouls. Douglas’s best play came late, in a hybrid line-up where the back-up point guard played alongside Conley, Carter, Ennis and Green. He was aggressive in drawing contact (he went to the line twice in the last 56.5 seconds of the game) and he fought hard for boards.