Saturday, March 6, 2010

Spurs 102, Grizzlies 92: Game Review

Posted By on Sat, Mar 6, 2010 at 10:54 PM

Experimenting with a new game-blog style though, like Hasheem Thabeet, it's still developing:

The Lead: Despite a big assist from Tony Parker's Fourth Right Metacarpal, Bizarro World continued for the Grizzlies Saturday night at FedExForum, where a 102-92 loss to the Spurs was the team's eighth straight home loss, the longest home losing streak since the team moved to Memphis in 2001. Meanwhile, the Grizzlies have won six straight on the road, making the Grizzlies the only team in NBA history to simultaneously have six-plus home losses and six-plus road wins. Has a team ever set a franchise record for consecutive road wins while falling out of a playoff race? And the loss tonight was despite the Spurs playing without starting point guard Tony Parker in the second half, who was diagnosed with a fractured ring finger at halftime and did not return. In the first half, in which the Spurs built a 58-48 lead, Parker's penetration was the engine for the Spurs offense, scoring 8 points on 4-7 shooting and collapsing the defense to set up Spurs shooters, registering four assists.

I don't have much of an explanation for this strange home loss/road win streak, especially with the Grizzlies suddenly winning the second night of back-to-backs regularly. But the quality of opposition certainly has something to do with it. All of the teams the Grizzlies have lost to in this home streak are either playoff locks or contenders. The teams the Grizzlies have beat in the road streak have been half lottery teams and half team around .500.

Game Ball: I'll give Marc Gasol the edge over O.J. Mayo (a game-high 23 points) here. Gasol, with 17 points (7-10 shooting), 13 rebounds, 4 assists, and 3 steals had a more well-rounded game while dealing with tougher match-ups at both ends of the floor. Gasol generally defended Tim Duncan (17 points on 6-14 shooting) well. In the third quarter, when the Grizzlies were making a run, Gasol forced Duncan into consecutive turnovers, one a lost ball, the other a bad pass. Down the stretch, in what turned out to be a back-breaking possession for the Grizzlies, Gasol defended Duncan well for a full 24 seconds, forcing Duncan into a miss at the buzzer, only to have Duncan get an offensive rebound, putback, and foul. And in a disappointing loss, Gasol gets bonus points for the most entertaining Grizzlies play of the night, a first-quarter steal that lead to an unlikely, rumbling coast-to-coast (not-so-) fastbreak dunk.

Number of the Night: 51. That was the Spurs advantage in bench-scoring tonight: 66-15. Part of that is a result of how the Spurs manage their lineups, with starter-level players Manu Ginobili (17 points, 6 assists) and Richard Jefferson (18 points, 6 rebounds) coming off the bench. And the Spurs' bench-production got a boost with Tony Parker's injury. But none of that accounts for the production of such true bench players as Dajuan Blair (10 points, 5 boards), Matt Bonner (13 points, 5 boards), and Roger Mason (8 points, 3 assists). The big difference, after the Grizzlies got off to a good start, was that the Spurs bench came in firing and hitting from three-point range. The Spurs bench was 9-18 from three-point range. The Grizzlies entire team was 3-10.

The Match-Up: Zach Randolph has been on a tear, scoring 20-plus points in seven straight games coming into tonight and spent much of the game matched-up with Spurs three-point specialist Matt Bonner. Good match-up, right? Well, Randolph finished with only 15 points and 7 rebounds while shooting a dismal 4-12. Plenty of blame to go around for this one: Early on, the team wasn't getting the ball to Randolph on the block enough and when he did get touches he was settling for jumpers. You could also blame Randolph (or, I suppose, the officials, depending on your perspective) for two first-half traveling calls. Randolph just didn’t have a very good game, but give some credit to Bonner for bodying Randolph up and denying deep post position, while the Spurs team defense also gave him some help.

The Jacob Riis Report: Matt Bonner and Dajuan Blair make for an interesting and effective frontcourt bench combo. Blair is impressive. His power is obvious, but his quickness is more impressive: Quick off the floor on first and second jumps and with a quick release. Given his size problems defensively, I'm not sure if he's ever going to be an ideal starter, but as long as the knees hold up, he's going to be a quality contributor. And Bonner may be a one-dimensional scorer — he was 4-7 from three-point range, which accounted for all his field goals — but he's effective in that role and provides surprising toughness for a shooting specialist. He's sort of a poor-man's Troy Murphy, but with an even surer stroke.

Tweet O’ the Game: @Eli560 Matt Bonner taking the ball at Hamed Haddadi is what makes NBA basketball great. 2 outstanding athletes going head-to-head

Arena Action: Lots of fun action beyond the game tonight. It was kids' night, which meant the house band got an upgrade with a couple of little-girl singers rocking Jackson Five covers, public address announcer Rick Trotter's job partly usurped by a tyke sidekick, and other shorties helping with other game duties throughout the arena. The game giveaway was a Hasheem Thabeet Growth Chart. Perhaps appropriate for kids' night, but also a little embarrassing considering the team's top pick is currently blocking shots with the "D League" Dakota Wizards. At halftime, members of the Memphis Roller Derby played musical chairs with visiting team mascots.

Playoff Positioning: Does it matter at this point? Losing home games this week to the two teams they're chasing for a playoff spot — the Spurs and the Portland Trailblazers — has the post-season looking very doubtful for the Grizzlies. But this loss puts the Grizzlies 4.5 games behind the Blazers for the last playoff spot.

Announced Attendance: 15,928

Deflections:

Mike Conley continued his modestly improved recent play, with 9 points on 4-8 shooting and 4 assists (to 1 turnover) in 27 minutes. His minutes were limited with three first-half fouls, but perhaps limited too much. I tend to think coaches (Lionel Hollins not at all unique in this regard) are too cautious with foul trouble, particularly for backcourt players.

The ball may stop too much when Sam Young is in the game, but the rookie made plays tonight. It will be interesting to see what happens to his minutes when Ronnie Brewer returns in a week or two.

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