The Lead: The Grizzlies avenged their 100-99 home loss to the Blazers back in mid-November with an ugly, hard-fought 86-73 win. The Blazers were certainly not in top shape, coming in on the second half of a back-to-back road set and with their ostensible best player, Brandon Roy, in bad shape. But this was still a good win for the Grizzlies. It moves the team to 11-14 and within one game of the now 12-13 Blazers for 8th seed in the Western Conference.
Most interesting was how Lionel Hollins used his roster tonight, giving significant minutes to both Tony Allen and O.J. Mayo — including using them together at times — and playing match-ups and offensive/defense switches effectively. It was probably the best game management I've seen from the Grizzlies this season.
It's also the second game in a row in which Mayo and Allen have figured prominently and the team has won, which could be — and should be — a sign of things to come if this team is going to make a playoff run. Mayo and Allen have been the two most underutilized players on the team this season. If these two games are more than just a blip and the team is ready to make good use of both, then the Grizzlies could be ready to make a strong push.
Man of the Match: After a slightly sluggish start to the season, Zach Randolph is back in beast mode. Randolph put up a game high 25 points and 20 rebounds tonight, his second 20-20 game of the season, and he's averaged 26 points and 17 rebounds in the current three-game winning streak. Portland power forward LaMarcus Aldridge has been a match-up problem for Randolph in the past with his combination of length and deft shooting, but Aldridge's mid-range game wasn't much of a factor tonight, as he hit only 1-2 outside the paint and scored only 13 points overall. Randolph just outworked Aldridge tonight, and on both ends: Randolph matched his season-high with 3 steals.
Nightly Number: The Grizzlies have been getting killed from long-range all season and three-point defense was a bit of a problem in the last game against Portland, when the Blazers went 7-19, most of the damage coming from Wesley Matthews, who shot 5-10. Tonight, the Blazers were only 4-18 from three, with Matthews hitting a tame 2-6. A lot of that was just poor shooting from Portland, but I did notice the Grizzlies — and particularly O.J. Mayo — doing a better job of closing out on open shooters.
The Match-Up: In the earlier loss to the Blazers, the Grizzlies were hurt down the stretch by point guard Andre Miller, who routinely backed down the smaller Mike Conley to collapse the Grizzlies defense and create scoring opportunities for himself and teammates. Tonight, Miller played the first nine minutes of the fourth quarter, which started with the Blazers leading 64-63. But instead of Conley, Miller faced the bigger Greivis Vasquez for all but two possessions of his fourth-quarter run. In that nine-minute stretch, Miller scored only 3 points (1-3 shooting) and had one assist to two turnovers. Meanwhile, the Grizzlies went on a 19-7 run to pushing their lead to 82-71 with three minutes to go, at which point Miller came out and the game was essentially over. Maybe that was a coincidence, but what I noticed was that Miller wasn't able to back-down the bigger Vasquez and that that was disrupting what Portland was trying to do offensively. I give Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins credit for (seemingly) recognizing this match-up wrinkle and riding Vasquez longer than he normally would, even though Hollins downplayed this match-up in his post-game press conference, even suggesting that Miller wasn't on the floor much during Vasquez's fourth-quarter run.
The Jacob Riis Report: The Blazers may be second only to the Lakers among my least-favorite NBA teams, but it's just sad watching a diminished Brandon Roy. Playing through knee problems that are likely to never improve, Roy looks like a shell of the player who was very recently a Top Ten league-wide caliber player. Without even average explosion or cutting ability, Roy hit only 3-16 shots tonight, and was 7-32 over the course of the Blazers' back-to-back set.
Tweet O’ the Game:
Brandon Roy is 3-15 shooting tonight. No doubt, distracted by Tony Allen's unkempt, vagrant-like grooming. #gogrizz — @ricktrotter
Arena Action:Grizzlies owner Michael Heisley was in the house. So was Andrew Unterberger, a correspondent for the terrific The Basketball Jones blog and pod/webcast, who is currently driving around the country on a mission to visit all 30 NBA arenas in 60 days. Andrew's write-up on his Memphis experience should be up on his excellent 30/60 blog in a day or two. And he may be joining me on The Chris Vernon Show tomorrow afternoon before heading to New Orleans for the next stop of his journey.
Where They Stand: The Grizzlies move to 11-14 and are 10th in the West, only a game back of the 8th-place Blazers.
Looking Ahead: The Grizzlies host the 8-15 Charlotte Bobcats Wednesday night and will be looking to extend their current winning streak to a season-best four. NBA commissioner David Stern will also be in the building.
Announced Attendance: 10,467
Despite Portland playing 42 of 48 minutes with a true center on the floor, including 8 minutes from lumbering back-up Joel Przybilla, Hasheem Thabeet received a DNP-CD tonight. I may be the only person who noticed this.
Lionel Hollins subbed Mike Conley out for a final defensive possession in the first half and used a rare Tony Allen/O.J. Mayo backcourt. He was rewarded for the move, as an Allen steal lead to a Mayo three-pointer to push the Grizzlies lead to 49-42.
The Grizzlies held the Blazers to a season-low 73 points, including only 9 in the fourth quarter.
Tony Allen had one assist in 18 minutes, but did not get credit for a couple of badly missed lay-ups that set up Zach Randolph put-backs. Trick or Treat.