Coming into last night, the Grizzlies were riding high after beating down the Indiana Pacers Wednesday night, thanks in part to impressive performances by Mike Conley and Vince Carter. However, before that they had been on a four-game losing streak. Coming into last night’s game, they were down a few key players: Marc Gasol, JaMychal Green, and Andrew Harrison. So players like Jarell Martin and Wade Baldwin IV were going to have to step up.
To open up the first quarter, the Grizzlies jumped out to an 11-3 lead early on. Mike Conley was off to another strong start, and he had 9 points going in to the second. The Grizzlies started well both offensively and defensively, in a similar fashion to Wednesday night’s match against the Indiana Pacers. However, the Dallas Mavericks soon responded to Memphis’ burst and were only down 2 at the end of the period.
In the second quarter, the Grizzlies really took hold. Right off the bat, they jumped out to a double-digit lead and didn’t look back. Troy Daniels really started to catch fire, as he had 12 points at the half (4/6 from three point range). In addition, James Ennis found his groove and went on an impressive run toward the end of the quarter with three great moves to the rim in a row, including one and-one reverse layup. Unsurprisingly, Mike Conley continued to lead Memphis, and he had 14 points at the half. The Grizzlies had a 55-34 lead going into the third quarter, and they held the Mavericks to 22.2% shooting from the field.
To open the third quarter, the Mavs went on a run of their own, but the Grizzlies extended the lead again. The Mavericks cut it to 9 with around 5 minutes remaining, but the Grizzlies responded and jumped back out as Troy Daniels and Mike Conley continued their hot shooting. To close the third, Dallas gained some momentum and was only trailing by 11 going in to the fourth quarter.
In the final period, Troy Daniels continued to explode from three and allowed the Grizzlies to kill Dallas’ momentum for most of the quarter. That is, until the Mavericks cut the deficit down to 4 with less than two minutes remaining thanks to their own hot streak of three pointers. Mike Conley made some clutch free throws down the stretch, and Memphis pulled out the necessary buckets to grab the victory at home, 99-90.
On the night for Dallas, Dirk Nowitzki scored 13 points and pulled in 12 rebounds. Wesley Matthews had 13 as well. Seth Curry racked up 12 points, including 3/3 from three. But these efforts weren’t enough to overpower impressive 20+ point performances from Zach Randolph, Mike Conley, and Troy Daniels.
Without some key pieces, players like James Ennis and Brandan Wright had to step up. Ennis had 9 points and 7 rebounds, while Brandon Wright had 8 points and 4 rebounds. Vince Carter had a quiet night with only 3 points, and Tony Allen only had 4.
"I'm sure we'll use it...It's just the mentality that's needed from each and every guy," -Vince Carter on Memphis' recent small ball.— Grizzly Bear Blues (@sbnGrizzlies) April 1, 2017
Atlas Donated His Shoulders to Mike Conley
Over this stretch without Marc Gasol, Mike Conley has continued to carry this Memphis Grizzlies team through adversity. Last night, he had 28 points, 6 assists, and 5 rebounds. Also, he was 10-11 from the free throw line. During March, he’s having the best month statistically of his whole career. He’s averaged 23.7 PPG on 47.7% shooting over the course of March, and he shot 37.7% from three and 91% from the free throw line. In his last 15 games, his true shooting percentage is 63%. The fact is, he’s been shooting lights-out in March.
Without Marc Gasol, Conley has really been forced to take a more dominant role on the team, which has helped him further develop as a player. Honestly, he needs to more regularly assert himself and have an alpha dog mentality for the Grizzlies to succeed, even when Gasol returns. Over the course of this season, Mike Conley has proved that he deserves to be in the top ranks in terms of guards in the league. If he continues this type of play going into the playoffs, it’ll be really entertaining to watch him in the postseason, no matter who Memphis’ opponent ends up being.
Troy Daniels and Zach Randolph Shine Off The Bench
Although Mike Conley had another incredible performance last night, Troy Daniels’ performance was just as impressive. He had 21 points, had a plus-minus rating of +15 (highest on the team), and was 7/12 from three point range. He played about 34 minutes, and Coach Fizdale has had to play him more lately due to recent injuries. After a slump following the All-Star break, Troy Daniels appears to be regaining his stride, which is a good sign for Memphis going into the playoffs.
"Making shots covers up a lot of stuff," -Troy Daniels. Stressed how important Mike has been and how these last games are important for MEM— Grizzly Bear Blues (@sbnGrizzlies) April 1, 2017
In addition, Zach Randolph has been making his case for Sixth Man of the Year all season long. Yet again, he came up big last night against the Mavericks with 22 points and 12 rebounds, and he had a plus-minus rating of +8. All season, Randolph has been a double-double machine, just like he has been his whole career. Age doesn’t seem to have an effect on him. His game has aged along with him, but he continues to produce consistently, and he should be recognized for that. He’s accepted his new role off the bench and has excelled at it. On the season, Zach Randolph has averaged 14.1 PPG and 8.2 rebounds in 24.4 minutes. So for the amount of minutes he’s getting this season off the bench rather than in his traditional starting role, he’s been performing really well.
At the very least, he should be in the conversation for Sixth Man of the Year.
"Guys are going out of their roles and sacrificing for the team," -Mike Conley— Grizzly Bear Blues (@sbnGrizzlies) April 1, 2017
Memphis’ bench was really shallow last night with Green, Harrison, and Gasol being out. Even with Mike Conley going off for almost 30, he still needs a good supporting cast. Last night’s win was another solid team effort, similar to Wednesday night. Now, Memphis will go on the road to face the LA Lakers on Sunday. On Tuesday, they’ll travel to San Antonio before facing the OKC Thunder on Wednesday at home. With the sixth seed within reach, this next stretch of games is vitally important for the Grizzlies, and it’ll help determine their postseason seeding, as they’ve now officially in the playoffs with the win last night.
"It seems so long ago that this time of year didn't mean anything to us," -Conley on the Grizzlies making the playoffs.— Grizzly Bear Blues (@sbnGrizzlies) April 1, 2017
Vince Carter says that next week against OKC will be a "playoff-like atmosphere."— Grizzly Bear Blues (@sbnGrizzlies) April 1, 2017
"He was not going to let us lose this game...He just in the huddles and everything was unbelievable," -Coach Fizdale on Zach Randolph.— Grizzly Bear Blues (@sbnGrizzlies) April 1, 2017
"Seamless," -Coach Fizdale on Zach Randolph's role transition. "He's got to be in the conversation for sixth man of the year."— Grizzly Bear Blues (@sbnGrizzlies) April 1, 2017
"Vince really took the challenge tonight to guard Dirk," -Coach Fizdale.— Grizzly Bear Blues (@sbnGrizzlies) April 1, 2017
"I really thought the young guys were the ones who got us back into a rhythm," -Coach Fizdale on the turning point in the fourth quarter.— Grizzly Bear Blues (@sbnGrizzlies) April 1, 2017