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.
At 9:10, everyone was allowed back in and, after a brief warm-up period, the game resumed. The official word was that the alarm system was triggered by a "water line break in the fire sprinkler system of FedExForum in a non-public area," according to a statement from President of Business Operations Greg Campbell.
My understanding is that in triggering the alarm system, the evacuation procedure was also automatically triggered. This is actually the second time there's been an in-game evacuation at FedExForum, at least during a Grizzlies game. The other was several years ago during a Sunday matinee game against the Charlotte Bobcats. I can still remember seeing Shane Battier — who had wandered out of a normal exit — sitting on a curb with fans waiting to get back into the arena.
With the Grizzlies down by double-digits when the evacuation occurred, most fans went home. To make up for the disruption, the team announced that it would give free tickets to Friday's game against the Minnesota Timberwolves to anyone who had a ticket to tonight's game. Fans can exchange tickets to the Clipper game for a new ticket starting at 10 a.m. Wednesday at the FedExForum box office.
2. The Fire Drill Effect: The Grizzlies had been sluggish all game and so had the fans, but both seemed to get a boost of energy after the evacuation. Chalk it up to the "fire drill effect": Remember how kids would always get a little more giddy and goofy waiting around outside during fire drills at school? That clearly happened to the 1,000 or so fans that came back for the fourth quarter and demonstrated a newfound feistiness that was matched by Grizzlies players. After getting outscored 37-26 in the first quarter and giving up 28 and 25 in the second and third, respectively, the Grizzlies won the fourth quarter 25-12 to complete an unlikely victory.
The Grizzlies' starters, taking advantage of the extra rest, played almost the entire fourth quarter (only Mike Conley, who entered at the 8:29 mark, didn't play the full quarter). This was good because once again the Grizzlies weren't getting much from the bench, which scored only eight points on 3-10 shooting.
Zach Randolph, in particular, seemed to be helped by the break: Randolph was apparently nursing a cold and certainly looked sluggish during the first three quarters, but scored nine of his 20 points and notched two of his four assists in the fourth.
3. Defensive Adjustment: The other key to the game was the defensive adjustment the Grizzlies made after the first half. Baron Davis has always been a difficult match-up for Mike Conley, but this game was a whole different level of abuse. Davis drove through Conley for the first Clippers basket and kept at it to the tune of 17 points, 9 rebounds, and 9 assists — in the first half. To start the third, the Grizzlies switched the bigger, stronger O.J. Mayo onto Davis and it seemed to make a big difference, as Davis' second half numbers were a more reasonable 10 points, 3 rebounds, and 3 assists. Conley still got overpowered a few times by Eric Gordon in the switch, but it wasn't nearly as big of a problem. With Mayo's assist numbers continuing to improve — a team-high six tonight — the case for Mayo getting at least spot minutes at the point against bigger opposing point guards is getting stronger.
The Jacob Riis Report: With Chris Kaman out and Marcus Camby limited due to flu symptoms, DeAndre Jordan got a chance to play big minutes for the Clippers and generally came through, matching his career high with 23 points (9-11 shooting) while chipping in 7 boards and 3 assists. Jordan, considered a big-time project after one year at Texas Tech, seems to be making progress in his second season, but he did most of his damage early tonight. He scored only two points in the fourth quarter and missed a pair of crucial free throws in the final two minutes.
Lester Hudson made his Grizzlies debut but seemed to be pressing, missing two jumpers in his three minutes of game time.
The Grizzlies turned the ball over on a five seconds call in the first half when Rudy Gay couldn’t find an open teammate in time. Can't remember every seeing that violation at a Griz game before.