The Grizzlies had an assist last night from the Charlotte Bobcats, who beat a fading Phoenix Suns team 114-109 for an overtime road win. The loss put the Suns a few winning-percentage points behind the Grizzlies, vaulting the Grizzlies into 7th place in the Western Conference standings. How much higher can they go? Well, according to Chris Mannix of CNNSI.com:
Memphis has a chance to rocket up the standings. Look at some of the teams around the Grizzlies. Houston is overachieving, Phoenix is fielding offers for its second-best player (Amar'e Stoudemire) and the Blazers' injury woes have to catch up to them eventually. The Grizzlies' phenomenal interior strength — who would have thought Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol would have formed the best 1-2 inside punch before the season? — will prevent any sustained droughts and long losing streaks. Remember, throw out the 1-8 start and Memphis has won nearly 68 percent of its games. That's a better winning percentage than all but one team (Los Angeles) in the conference. My prediction: The Grizz lock up the No. 6 seed by April.
A mere two games separates the 4th through 11th teams in the West right now, which makes every night from here on out relevant to the standings, but tonight's games, in particular, present a lot of room for movement. Working through the 4-11 seeds:
1. An Improbable Victory: The Orlando Magic are the reigning Eastern Conference champions and currently have the league's seventh best record. And there's no secret to how they're effective. In Dwight Howard, they have the league's most physically imposing interior player — the league leader in both rebounding and shot-blocking. Offensively, Howard dominates in the paint, drawing attention from the Magic's deep array of shooters, resulting in the NBA's most prolific three-point attack. Defensively, Howard single-handedly controls the paint, allowing his teammates to play aggressively around the perimeter.
Tonight? Howard scored 27 points on 9-14 shooting, grabbed 15 rebounds, and blocked 6 shots. Meanwhile, the Magic were shooting 48% from three-point range at one point in the third quarter (13-27). And the Grizzlies had 20 turnovers, several of those turnovers coming on fastbreaks, of which the Grizzlies converted only five of 14 opportunities.
So how the hell did the Grizzlies win this game? I put this question to coach Lionel Hollins afterward, and he responded with words such as "grit," "toughness," and "perseverance." That might sound like happy talk, but it's hard to deny.
I'm live at FedExForum where the Grizzlies will take on the Orlando Magic in about 30 minutes, putting their 10-game home winning streak on the line. This streak is destined to end —Â probably soon. Are the Magic the team to break it? Orlando, at 29-15, is one of the league's elite teams, a reigning Eastern Conference champion built around the NBA's most dominant interior force, Dwight Howard (who leads the NBA in rebounding and shot-blocking), and its most prolific three-point shooting attack.
But Orlando, after starting the season 17-4, is only 12-11 since. And though they've won three games in a row, they haven't been terribly impressive victories: Home wins against bottom-dwellers Indiana and Sacramento followed by an overtime win at Charlotte (okay, that one's pretty good). Prior to that, Orlando's last quality road win was in mid-December against Miami.
Match-up to watch: Zach Randolph against Rashard Lewis, one of the most paint-oriented power forwards in the league against one of the most perimeter-oriented. Something's gotta give.
After being sidetracked by other duties Friday night, when the Griz won a decided atypical defensive-struggle against the Oklahoma City Thunder, I should be back with a post-game report after this one, and will provide occasional tweeted commentary during the game.
Let's do this.
Let's do this.
The NBA trade deadline is still a few weeks away, but trade rumors are picking up, with a sudden eruption in Griz-related conjecture today.
Let's work though the names that have appeared, in order of significance:
Here's what ESPN.com's Chad Ford wrote about Gay today in a column about potential trade targets:
The Grizzlies are playing their best basketball since Jerry West was the GM, so why would they mess with a good thing?
There are two reasons, according to a pair of general managers who have spoken with the Grizzlies in recent days. One, Memphis is concerned that this summer a team flush with cap space will offer Gay (who will be a restricted free agent this summer) a huge contract that Grizzlies owner Michael Heisley will be unwilling to match. Two, the team, currently at 22-19, would love to make the playoffs and believes it's a veteran defensive presence away from getting there.
While a number of teams would be interested in Gay, a rising talent at age 23, keep your eye on the Pistons. They have been hunting for the right trade in which to move Tayshaun Prince. If Prince is healthy (he has been battling back and knee injuries all season), he might fit the bill for Memphis — and the Pistons could throw in a lottery pick from this year's draft to sweeten the deal.
A lot to consider here. First, I don't at all doubt the quality of Ford's sources and there's nothing here that strains credibility. That said, this tidbit deserves a careful reading: Ford says that he talked to a couple of general managers who have talked to the Grizzlies and that those executives give a rationale for why the Grizzlies would consider dealing Gay this season. Ford doesn't write that those general managers have had trade discussions regarding Gay. So, it's hard to tell how serious this is. My guess is it's just due diligence: There's reason to believe Gay could get an offer next summer in excess of the five-year, $50 million offer the Grizzlies made last summer. And if he does, the team will have a difficult decision to make. The Grizzlies should be game-planning all relevant scenarios, and I'm sure they are.
Watching the Grizzlies lose 113-111 tonight at New Orleans, I was struck by the similarity to the ending of the team's previous loss, January 9th at Charlotte.
At Charlotte: O.J. Mayo hits a clutch, contested three-pointer to tie the game. The Grizzlies then make a defensive substitution of DeMarre Carroll for Marc Gasol. Bobcats guard Raymond Felton misses a shot on the final possession, but Gerald Wallace goes right over Zach Randolph for the game-winning tip-in. The 7'1" Gasol, who had won the game the night before with final-possession blocked shot, watches from the bench.
At New Orleans: Rudy Gay hits a clutch, contested three-pointer to tie the game. The Grizzlies then make a defensive substitution of DeMarre Carroll for Marc Gasol. Hornets forward James Posey drives around Carroll (deplorable man defensive there) and to the rim, where Zach Randolph fails to rotate over and contest the shot. The 7'1" Gasol, who had four blocks in the game, watches from the bench.
1. A Message Game: At this point, I think opposing teams and coaches and hardcore NBA fans around the country know that the Grizzlies are for real, but tonight's game — the team's first before an announced sellout crowd and first (and only) on national TV (not counting NBATV games) — sent a broader message. In beating the Suns, the Grizzlies aren't just half a game out of the final playoff spot; they're a single game out of the 6th seed, two games out of the 5th seed, etc. And it was a high-scoring, wildly entertaining display for a live and TV audiences packed with people who probably haven't been paying close attention to the Grizzlies.
The Grizzlies built double-digit leads in both the first and second half only to see the explosive, veteran Suns push back. The Grizzlies were up 14 early in the second quarter only to see the Suns fight back to take a brief lead off the energetic interior play of Robin Lopez and Louis Amundsen, of all people. The Grizzlies are the best team in the league with offensive rebounding and interior scoring, but the Suns were beating them at both tonight — +4 in offensive rebounds and +16 on points in the paint in the first half, both categories roughly even in the second half.
In the fourth quarter, the Grizzlies had an 11-point lead with two and a half minutes to play, but the Suns just wouldn't go away, going on a 13-5 run over the next two minutes, capitalizing on a Griz turnover and some missed free throws with their own transition scores and three-pointers.
After using their bench more in wins over Minnesota and San Antonio, the Grizzlies leaned heavily on their starters tonight, with the "core four" of Gay, Mayo, Randolph (all playing 40+ minutes), and Gasol (limited to 27 minutes due to foul trouble) accounting for 105 of the team's 125 points. Mike Conley, after struggling for much of the game, finished strong, with two steals, two assists on Gasol lay-ups, and a big floater down the stretch.
Alright. I'm courtside at FedExForum where the Grizzlies will host the Phoenix Suns on national television in about half an hour.
The building is overrun with people from the TNT network, including former Grizzlies coach Mike Fratello, who will be doing color commentary on the broadcast.
I got here today in time to see the second half of the high school in which Melrose beat Germantown behind a big game from junior Adonis Thomas, who looked like a boy among men despite the presence of numerous seniors heading to D-1 colleges.
And I just got back from the Martin Luther King Day Symposium, where Alonzo Mourning and Oscar Robertson were honored.
I'll have notes on all this in my post-game report later tonight. But first, the Grizzlies, winners of eight straight home games, will try to move to 22-18 over a Phoenix Suns team that has lost all three games on its current road trip heading into today.
Let's do this.
The Grizzlies moved to 20-18 in a wild, record-setting night at FedExForum, setting a new season high in points, assists (33), and three-pointers (11) en route to tying the franchise record for consecutive home wins with seven.
A lot to look at coming out of this one. A few of the things I took away:
1. The Best They Can Be: The Grizzlies starting five has had plenty of time to build chemistry this season, having played nearly 75 more minutes as a unit than any other five-man group in the NBA this season. But that starting five has probably never been better than they were against an overmatched Timberwolves squad Friday night.
On the season, the Grizzlies — 11th in offensive efficiency — have been a good offensive team despite getting very little production from the bench. And they've done this despite a series of lingering problems: Aside from the bench, the Grizzlies this season have generally been plagued by a lack of three-point shooting (29th in attempts per game, 25th in percentage), poor assist production (27th in assist ratio; an overrated problem but a problem nonetheless), too many turnovers (19th in turnover ratio, and number that’s been improving of late), and inconsistent play from starting point guard Mike Conley.
But against the Timberwolves, none of these things were problems: The Grizzlies hit 11-23 from three-point range (10-15 from starters), notched 33 assists (28 from starters), only nine turnovers (only four from the starters), and Mike Conley had one of his best games of the season (18 points, 8 assists, 1 turnover, 7-10 shooting).
Alright. I'm live at FedExForum where the Grizzlies will attempt to go 2 games above .500 for the first time this season as they host the 8-32 Minnesota Timberwolves. The Grizzlies are 2-0 in the season series, but the first game was against a Wolves team without its two best players, Al Jefferson and Kevin Love. And the second game was when Jefferson was just working his way back into the lineup and Love was still out.
Tonight will be a battle of two of the league's most productive frontcourt tandems and two struggling starting point guards, but that's where the comparisons end. On the wings, Rudy Gay and O.J. Mayo should have a big advantage on Wolves opposite numbers Damien Wilkins and Corey Brewer. Should.
Personally, I'm looking forward to this game more than I normally would against a cellar-dweller Grizzlies opponent, as the Kevin Love-Zach Randolph match-up could be fascinating: The top two offensive rebounders in the league among player averaging more than 30 minutes, the Grizzlies' current power forward against the power forward the team could have had.
Check back later for a post-game report.
Let's do this.
For Beyond the Arc readers who don't always frequent other corners of the Flyer site, my annual midseason Griz cover story is out this week, a little bit earlier than usual, with an excellent cover illustration from Greg Cravens.
You can read the full story here.
Here's the cover from the print edition, followed by the source inspiration:
The Grizzlies overcame an 18-point deficit to beat the Los Angeles Clippers in an unusual game, moving to 19-18 and 1.5 games out of final Western Conference playoff seed.
1. The Evacuation: The most notable thing that happened at this Grizzlies game didn't involve any players or coaches. It was a sudden arena evacuation that happened near the end of the third quarter, at approximately 8:53 p.m., signaled by a written message that appeared on the Jumbotron.
Kevin Cerrito of Memphis Sport magazine took this photo of the message, which I post here with his permission:
Fans and game personnel spread out through various exits and no one seemed to be sure what had triggered the evacuation. At first, Cerrito and I ended up in a parking garage where we could see players from both teams first milling about and then entering separate buses. At the other end of the garage, water was flooding in near the ground. Moving back up to the area just outside the main lobby, I talked to a Grizzlies employee who said he's heard there was a water system problem and by that point, the same word was beginning to spread among other team officials.
I'm courtside at FedExForum where the Grizzlies will try to even their season series against a suddenly hot Los Angeles Clippers team, winners of four in a row and five of their past six games.
Clippers center Chris Kaman, who has been dominant in recent weeks, is a late scratch for the Clippers, which should help the Grizzlies maximize their interior strength.
I'll have a full post-game report up a couple hours after the final buzzer. In the meantime, I'll be providing occasional tweeted commentary.
Let's do this.
The Grizzlies beat the Jazz in a hard-fought game tonight to move to 18-17. As the final horn sounded, streamers dropped, and the Gap Band's "You Dropped the Bomb on Me" blasted, an announced crowd of 14,213 in FedExForum got to cheer on an NBA team with a winning record. The last time that happened was in April of 2006.
A few quick thoughts late on a Friday night. (I'll make up for this relative brevity in the coming week.)
1. Toughness: This was not a typical Grizzlies win. The last time the team won without scoring at least 100 points was December 4th, when they scored 98 to beat Dallas. And the previous season-low point total in a win was 97 (twice, both against Minnesota). Friday night, the Grizzlies exploded in the first quarter, outscoring the Jazz 33-14 in large part by forcing turnovers and getting out into transition. In the second and third quarters, Utah dictated, turning it into a slower, uglier, more physical game, and the Jazz outscored the Grizzlies 53-38. The fourth quarter was a war, and the Grizzlies have not been a team likely to slug it out against the likes of the Jerry Sloan-coached Jazz and come away victorious.
I'm courtside at FedExForum where the suddenly .500 Grizzlies will host the Utah Jazz after a 3-1 road trip. Doesn't look to be much of a crowd tonight as that dangerous cold makes the Memphis streets too treacherous to navigate.
I'll have a post-game report up sometime later tonight and will be tweeting occasional commentary on the thread below. As always, I'll drop into this space as well if it seems warranted.
Let's do this.
This afternoon the Grizzlies claimed Memphis native Lester Hudson off waivers. Hudson, who played college ball at UT-Martin, was a late second-round pick of the Boston Celtics in last summer's draft and was waived by the Celtics January 6th.
A 6'3" combo guard who averaged 28 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2.3 steals a game last season at UT-Martin, Hudson is known as a live athlete and volume scorer. He hadn't played much for the Celtics this season, but had acquitted himself well in two stints with the Developmental League's Maine Red Claws, averaging 15 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 assists. Hudson, 25, is old for a rookie.
Hudson will not be active for tonight's game against the Utah Jazz.