Grizzlies vs Suns Postgame

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Midway through overtime, I closed my eyes in section 113 row G seat 4. I heard the crowd’s burst of joy; I heard the PA announcer proclaim Zach Randolph had made a two-point shot as the crowd began slowly chanting “Z-Bo, Z-bo, Z-Bo.”  As I shut my eyes, I wasn’t in section 113 anymore.  I was in section 209 row F seat 5 on April 29, 2011.  The Grizzlies were playing the Spurs not the Suns.  It was the playoffs not the regular season, and I was in crappy seats crammed in between two overweight Grizzlies fans. Everything was completely different except a few things: the crowd’s roar, the PA announcers rich voice, Z-Bo chants and Zach Randolph being Z-Bo.  I was able to briefly relive the greatest moment of my sports fandom:  the night the Grizzlies won their first playoff series on the shoulders of Zach Randolph.

Randolph had it all working Tuesday night: the jab-step jumper, the step-jumper, the running hook, the Z-bound and he even threw in some bonus blocked shots and a spin of the block one-handed dunk.  He ended the night with 38 pts on 15-22 shooting 8-8 fts and 22 rebounds (7 offensive).  He took over the game in overtime and everyone in the building knew it.  People always talk about players “being in the zone”; well, I will always associate “being in the zone” with eyebrow scowl of Zach Randolph as he dominates the end of a close game from the post. 

Randolph covered up what was a pretty poor game from the Grizzlies.  They played terrible in the first half, with 12 turnovers, and the suns hit every shot they looked at. In the second half, the Grizzlies would cut the lead to two or four only to watch the suns make another run and push the lead back to 10. Memphis, finally, took the lead with just over a minute left in the game, on a Randolph runner, only to have the suns recapture the lead the next possession on a Luis Scola hookshot. Then, Rudy Gay tied the game with 12-foot pull up with around 20 seconds left.  Jermaine O’Neal, who actually played a great game, threw up a desperation 20-footer as regulation ended.  In overtime, Mike Conley hit a three on the opening possession as the shot-clock winded down.  From then on out, it was the Z-Bo show.  They just threw him the ball on the block and got the heck out of the way.  He hit three jumpers in a row to push the Grizzlies’ lead to eight. Z-Bo was back, and no one was happier than all his teammates, who were all smiling as Z-Bo chants rained from the stands. 

Randolph’s scoring barrage proved too much for the Suns as the Grizzlies prevailed 108-98 in overtime.  

It wasn’t a playoff series clincher, but it sure felt good to watch Z-Bo do his thing.

Grizzlies vs Cavaliers Postgame

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The Grizzlies somehow squeaked out an 88-78 win on Monday night despite a less than stellar effort through 3 quarters.  Cleveland’s Anderson Varejao pulled down 22 boards, and it felt like more if that’s possible.  It seemed like every loose ball ended up in his hands.  Varejao came in leading the lead in rebounding by a small margin over Zach Randolph, but tonight Varejao widened the gap and ended Randolph’s double-double streak.  Randolph has recorded a double-double every game this season, but tonight he only grabbed 8, while scoring 19 points on 8 of 11 shooting.  

Despite the Grizzlies’ lackluster effort through 3 quarters the game turned on the pivotal run the Grizzlies made starting at the beginning of the 4th quarter.  Quincy Pondexter scored 3 straight buckets to start the 4th and pull the Grizzlies within a point of the lead.  He Wayne Ellington and Darrell Arthur kept the game within reach until Coach Hollins put the starters back in with about 7 minutes left.  From there, the Grizzlies wore down Cleveland with tenacious defense.  The most fun part of the game came on the Cavaliers final two possessions when Tony Allen denied Dion Waiters the ball then made 2 steals on Consecutive possessions.  After the 2nd steal, he walked down the row of courtside seats high-fiving all the cheering fans.  Despite Allen’s lack of offensive skills, he impacts the game defensively and emotionally in an immeasurable way.  

With the game still too close to call with just under 2 minutes left, Zach Randolph got the ball on the right block and took Grizzlies fans back to the 2011 playoffs with a running left-handed hook in the lane to give the Grizzlies a 2 point lead.  Randolph is still working himself back into a good rhythm, but moments like this assure Grizzlies fans that he will return to the dominance that pushed the Grizzlies to the 2nd round of the playoffs in 2011.  

Following the Randolph hook, Bayless put the dagger in with a 12 foot pull up jumpshot off a Marc Gasol screen.  

“I had nothing to lose,” Bayless said after the game, “I played so bad in the first 3 quarters and most of the 4th that if I missed, oh well.”

Although Bayless struggled to fill Conley’s shoes, he has a something nice to build off with a game-sealing shot.

The Grizzlies seemed out of sorts all night long.  Starting point-guard, Mike Conley Jr., missed the game with the flu, and Jerryd Bayless assumed the starting role.  Conley was drastically  missed as the Grizzlies struggled to get into their offense early in the shot clock.  Conley is overlooked as an elite point-guard in the league, but he is incredibly valuable to his team’s success.  He does all the little things that go unnoticed.  He controls the speed of the game as good as any guard in the league, and that control keeps the Grizzlies’ tempo where it needs to be.  Conley keeps everyone happy on offense giving Gasol, Randolph and Gay the amount of touches they need.  Also, his improved jumpshot keeps teams honest giving Randolph and Gasol room to operate inside.  Still, the most underrated part of Conley’s game is his pick-and-roll defense.  He makes defending the PnR look easy by going over screen after screen allowing the big men to keep up with the roll man.  Too often against Cleveland, just one screen broke down the Memphis defense giving the Cavaliers and easy shot. Fortunately for the Grizzlies, Conley shouldn’t miss extended time and will probably play in the next game.

Lastly, you have to give credit to Anderson Varejao.  He played his butt of all night long grabbing 22 boards and scoring 15 points.  He single-handedly willed his team to success through 2 quarters and did everything in his power to get the Cavaliers a win.  

Next, the Grizzlies host the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday.  

Marc Gasol the Young Arvydas Sabonis?

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Today, several people have compared the games of Marc Gasol to Arvydas Sabonis, the Lithuanian injury prone star.  First, Erik Spoelstra, Miami Heat Coach, was asked what he thought were some of the biggest surprises of the young NBA season.  He said that he was impressed with the production of Marc Gasol and compared him to Sabonis.  

Next, Zach Randolph in a fantastic interview with Chris Vernon, which you should listen to here if you haven’t already heard it, called Gasol “young Sabonis.”  Their games have many similarities.  They both are highly skilled 7 footers that can shoot, pass and rebound.  

After watching highlight videos of both, I have to admit several of their signature moves are eerily similar.  They each had the running hook in the lane and a similar jumper, but the greatest similarity is how they pass out of the post.  They each palm the ball and find the open man in creative ways that most big men just can’t seem to do.  Here are the two videos decide for yourself if the comparison is accurate.

Grizzlies vs Bobcats Postgame

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The grizzlies looked like they had just played an emotional and physical game the night before and flown into Charlotte at 3 a.m. while defeating the Bobcats on Saturday night.  The Bobcats pressed the grizzlies and ran non-stop making the game messy and tough for the Grizzlies to get into a groove, but in the end the Grizzlies superior talent won out.

The difference was the 18 turnovers the Grizzlies forced leading to 25 points.  Tony allen and Mike Conley combined for 7 steals and disrupted any offensive rhythm the Bobcats tried to get into.  The run the Bobcats made in the 4th quarter was mostly of hustle points on fast breaks and offensive rebounds.  The closed the gap to within 4 points until Zach Randolph hit two shots in the lane to shut the door.  

The game overall was a little boring to watch as each team shot just under 39% from the the field.  The Bobcats are a young scrappy team that lack a whole lot of skill and make the game messy.  A person can only take so many Byron Mullins jumpers (He took 21 shots to score 18 points).  

That’s pretty much it on the game, it was boring and the more talented team won for the sole fact that they were better. Memphis will remain on top of the NBA rankings, and Zach Randolph continued his double-double streak with 18 points and 12 boards.  

The Grizzlies win their 8th straight and will play their next game at the FedEx Forum on Monday against the Nuggets.

Grizzlies vs Knicks Postgame

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Memphis walked off the court the top ranked team in basketball late Friday evening.  And no it wasn’t the 2008 Derrick Rose University of Memphis Tigers; it was the 2012 Memphis Grizzlies.  They handed an undefeated Knicks team their first loss of the 2012-2013 season behind Marc Gasol’s tremendous performance.  This win will put the Grizzlies atop all the power polls and rankings tomorrow morning.

Gasol ended with 24 points on 6-10 shooting. He only had 1 assist but initiated a lot of the offense, had plenty of hockey assists and got the Knicks’ front line into foul trouble.  Zach Randolph forced the Knicks’ bigs to foul, as well, scoring 20 points and grabbing 15 rebounds to continue his 8 game double-double streak. The Knicks’ frontcourt began battling foul trouble in the middle of the third quarter when Gasol drew an off-the-ball foul on Carmelo Anthony, which lead to an Anthony technical foul and 4th personal foul.  A few possessions later Gasol, again, drew a shooting foul off a beautiful pump fake on Tyson Chandler giving him his 5th personal foul.  All night Randolph and Gasol were banging on the block with Chandler and Anthony forcing foul after foul.

For the first time in franchise history, the Grizzlies have the best record in the NBA.  They extend their winning streak to 7 games, and their home winning streak to 15 games: the longest active streak in the league.

The Grizzlies have made a point to teams around the NBA that the trend of going small favors the Grizzlies superior size.  They have beaten both the Knicks and the Heat this weak in a dominating fashion by exploiting the mismatches in the post.  Against Miami, Shane Battier struggled to guard Randolph all night long, and Anthony failed to effectively defend Gasol on Friday night.

The game had a playoff feel to it with a near sellout crowd and chippiness throughout the game.  In the second quarter, J.R. Smith and Jerryd Bayless forced referees to regain control of the game when they shoved and mouthed at each other after a Bayless foul.  The situation was diffused quickly with double technical fouls.  However, the 3rd quarter brought its fair share of Knicks’ technicals, with Coach Mike Woodson, Carmelo Anthony, and J.R. Smith all receiving them in the 3rd quarter.

The grizzlies have become like Isiah Thomas’ “bad boy pistons” in that they get underneath teams’ skins.  That was seen in the Oklahoma City Thunder as well as this game.  The physical “grit and grind’  give the grizzlies an advantage by getting in the heads of opposing teams.

The Knicks’ came in the best 3 pt shooting team in the league, but shot only 26 percent friday night.  This was the 2nd night of a back to back, so perhaps tired legs are to blame for poor shooting.  The overall Knicks’ performance was mediocre from the start of the 2nd half after an evenly and well played 1st half.  However, Rasheed Wallace proved he could still contribute at the ripe age of 38.  He scored 13 points on 10 shots in 24 min, talking trash to fans, Lionel Hollins and opposing players all along the way.  He also returned to his old form when he received a technical foul after protesting a call by dancing around like his clothes were on fire.

Grizzlies fans should take away from this game that the Grizzlies are truly a title contender.  They are playing better basketball than anyone in the league right now, and they show no signs of slowing down.  The way, in which, they are winning is sustainable.  Wayne Ellington isn’t hitting  7 threes a game like he did against MIami, and  they are playing balanced-team basketball.  They are top ten in the NBA in Points per game, rebounds per game, assists per game and points allowed per game.  If they keep this up Memphis could be attending NBA Finals games in June 2013.

NOTES:  After the game in the locker room, Marc Gasol approved and encouraged a new grizzlies slogan:  “We don’t Bluff City”.  This comes from Zach Randolph’s comments after the Oklahoma City game when addressed reporters about the Kendrick Perkins scuffle, “A lot of people are bluffing out their, but me I don’t bluff.”

Grizzlies vs Clippers Postgame

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Chris Paul, Eric Bledsoe and Jamal Crawford ran all over the Grizzlies last night as the Grizzlies’ defense seemed to still be figuring things out late Wednesday night.  The 101 to 92 loss is the grizzlies 13th straight opening night loss, and the franchise has yet to win an opener since moving to Memphis.

Defensive rotations were late and non-existant at times, and nobody on the team could keep Paul, Bledsoe or Crawford in front of them.  However, they did force 22 turnovers, and Tony Allen and Mike Conley Jr. both had 3 steals.  The Clippers bench scored 49 points leaving the Grizzlies’ defense much to be desired.

The Grizzlies’ offense wasn’t much better, but several individual players played well on the offensive end.  The Grizzlies turned the ball over 21 times and shot an abysmal 38.4 percent from the field and 14.3 percent from three.  At times, it seemed like they struggled to get into the offense and were forced to heave a prayer with the shot-clock winding down.  Jerryd Bayless showed he could be a comparable backup for Conley and the offense wouldn’t come to a halt every time Conley took a breather.  Gay played really well offensively; he made decisive moves and scored 25 points on 21 shots.  Gasol and Gay were really the only players to play well on both ends, they were the only starters to not have a negative plus/minus.

The rebounding looked good. Zach Randolph grabbed 16 boards, seven of which were offensive.  The rest of the game for Randolph was one to forget, although he still managed 15 points.  He missed several bunnies and really never found a good rhythm.  Gasol rebounded well he grabbed 7 boards with 5 dimes and 20 points.

Although it wasn’t the best game the Grizzlies have ever played, there is no need for panic.  Last season, it was around game 15 when Coach Hollins’ defensive schemes began to sink in.  Also, the shots will begin falling once everyone gets back in the swing of things, and it may have just been a bad shooting night.  Zach Randolph moved well and didn’t look inhibited at all by the knee, which should excite Grizzlies’ fans.

Next, Memphis heads to Oakland, Calif. to take on a young Golden State Warriors team on Friday night.

ADDITIONAL NOTES:  The team announced Tuesday that the sale of the team to the new owner, Robert Pera, had been made official.  The press conference will be held next Monday at 10 a.m.  David Stern and Robert Pera will be in attendance for the home opener against the Utah Jazz Monday night.

Grantland Grizz Article

Jonathan Abrams wrote a fantastic article on the Grizzlies culture and Lionel Hollins over at Granland.com.  He focussed on how Lionel Hollins coaches and where he got his coaching influence from.  I agreed with most and the piece and would add that with Coach Hollins you take the good with the bad.  He is a stubborn and hard man thats sticks to his guns.  Often, this works to the benefit of the Grizzlies, but sometimes you watch the grizzlies get roasted by Kobe Bryant because Coach Hollins is mad at Tony Allen for taking a bad shot.  Also, part of Hollins’ genius lies in the fact that he isn’t afraid to press different buttons.  He may run out a lineup of Bayless-Selby-Gay-Speights-Gasol to end a game because he thinks they give the team the best chance to win.  The downfall comes when the button he presses fails, which leaves the fanbase scratching their heads.  But anyway go check out the article at Grantland.com 

Heres the Link:  http://www.grantland.com/story/_/id/8573673/behind-scenes-memphis-grizzlies-coach-lionel-hollins