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.”