It's an opening-night preview tonight at FedExForum as the Grizzlies host the Detroit Pistons, who will return October 28th for the regular-season opener.
This is the last home preseason game. Since I have post-game plans, I won't be doing a standard "three pointer" but will instead provide occasional commentary in this space throughout tonight's game.
We're about 30 minutes from the tip, so check back then.
Let's do this.
Well, this has been promising. Griz jump out 20-7 with 5 assists on 8 made baskets and 12 fast-break points. Pistons are helping a lot obvious, but the aggression and execution is still a good sign. Balanced scoring among all five starters (2-6 points from each) with Mayo (2) and Conley (3) sharing assists.
DeMarre Carroll hit a Shane Battier Memorial Baseline Jumper but missed an elbow three at the buzzer. If he can extend the range on his jumper a little bit, he could be like Battier with more flair. Carroll is backing up the four tonight with Darrell Arthur out. He can play both forward spots and can potentially defend there as well as the two depending on the match-ups. I'll be surprised is he doesn't log major minutes this season.
Griz close the quarter up 33-14. They've shot 13-23 from the floor with 9 assists. Hard to expect much better. One key to the offense this year, to risk stating the obvious, is for Rudy Gay and Zach Randolph to defer to teammates more and limit forced shots against double teams. Unselfishness doesn't just manifest itself in terms of assists. Much more on that subject to come.
Thabeet with a strong weakside rejection, but also two fouls in 5 minutes. Randolph also in foul trouble with three, so we may see lots of Carroll tonight.
A bad sequence for Thabeet demonstrates some of the ways he's going to struggle, at least initially: At one end will Bynum drives into his body and finishes at the rim; Thabeet needed space to block the shot and didn't have it. At the other end, he gets a catch deep in the paint with a defender leaning on him, but isn't strong enough to gather himself and get a shot off, instead getting called for "three seconds".
Rudy Gay with back-to-back assists setting up Steven Hunter lay-ups. Maybe they're starting to get a handle on this passing thing. Or maybe it's just preseason. Also, Haddadi is in with Gasol/Randolph/Thabeet all with 3 first-half fouls.
Rudy also with 20 points in this half on 7-8 shooting. What does he think this is, a national team scrimmage?
Griz lead it 68-46 at the half. Popcorn time!
Ridiculous start to third quarter:
First, Rudy with the lookaway pass to a cutting Randolph for a layup.
Then some crisp ball movement — a driving Conley kicks to Randolph at the top of key, who whips to Mayo for an elbow 3.
Then Marc Gasol with a homerun pass to a streaking Mayo for a dunk and foul on Ben Wallace.
The execution fell off a bit after that, but the unselfishness and energy are still good. Griz up 79-57 middle of third.
Thabeet out again with 5 fouls in 10 minutes. Hunter in to man the middle. Why not Haddadi?
Griz leading 89-72 at end of the third, a quarter which featured DeMarre Carroll going horizontal, flying across the scorers table to save a loose ball, and getting a big ovation for it. He's everywhere, every time he touches the floor.
If it wasn't clear before, it is now: Steven Hunter is more than just cap fodder. Despite missing most of last season to injury, he can still play and is a viable, active frontcourt reserve who can play the four and five. He's pushing Haddadi down the depth chart, but could help the Grizzlies on the court this year and be a trade commodity later in the season.
Marcus Williams putting together a really nice game off the bench — 15 points (5-8 shooting) and 2 assists in 16 minutes so far. If Wednesday night was Mike Taylor's back-up point guard audition and tonight is Williams, it's been a no-contest.
Griz win this one 115-94. Check the box score and imagine Allen Iverson where Marcus Williams is. Probably a pretty good approximation of the kind of scoring and shot distribution you want in the regular season.