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.