The Lead: Heading into tonight, the Grizzlies and Bobcats had each played a league-high 8 games decided by three points or less (Griz 4-4, Bobcats 3-5). This was not one of those nights.
This was the first true rout of the season for the Grizzlies. An earlier 20-point win against the Minnesota Timberwolves hovered in the teens until well into the fourth quarter. But tonight, the Grizzlies overcame a slow start offensively to build a 23-point lead at the half and then overcame another brief offensive hiccup at the start of the second half to build a 35-point lead.
Another fastbreak trifecta happened midway through the fourth quarter: First an alley-oop from Mayo to Darrell Arthur that Arthur finished with a thunderous one-handed dunk. Then a Mayo lay-up in transition in which he brought the ball behind his back and finished, twisting, over a Bobcats defender. Two possessions later, a Gay block led to another alley-oop, this time Gay feeding Arthur for another big dunk. This sequence pushed the lead to 33 and, anticipating a Bobcats timeout that didn't come, Mike Conley and (I think) other players on the Griz bench ran onto the court to celebrate, getting the most comical technical foul we're likely to see this season. The Grizzlies ended up with 31 fastbreak points on the night.
The Grizzlies needed a game like this and, with things coming easy, the team created something of an offensive roadmap: Good shots were funneled to the team's three most-talented scorers — Zach Randolph (8-16), Gay (8-15), and Mayo (10-15) — while both point guards registered more assists than field-goal attempts (Mike Conley: 9:6, Greivis Vasquez 6:3). There are some nights, obviously, when a good match-up or a hot hand should lead to Conley being more of a primary scorer. But, on average, the best scorers on this team are not at that position.
And even more than Conley, getting more judicious shot selection from Vasquez and Tony Allen seemingly lead to a more effective attack: On the season, this duo has averaged 8 field-goal attempts in 22 combined minutes. Tonight, they took only 5 shots in 30 combined minutes, funneling more off-the-bench shots to Mayo, where they belong.
The win adds to what is now a season-high four-game win streak.
Man of the Match: It has to be O.J. Mayo, who had the kind of instant-offense game coming off the bench that needs to become more regular for this playing rotation to work. Mayo scored a game high 24 points in only 24 minutes, getting up 15 shots (including 3-6 from three-point range). He also had 4 assists and only 1 turnover, demonstrating a strong role in the offense beyond just his scoring. Tonight, Mayo was looking for his shot and his teammates were clearly looking for him. He was treated like the offensive weapon he can and should be. Single game +/- numbers can be misleading, but Mayo was +34 tonight.
An important aspect to Mayo's performance that shouldn't be missed, however, was the absence of dynamic Bobcats small forward Gerald Wallace, who sat out with a sprained ankle. Without Wallace, the Bobcats' 6'8" starting two-guard, Stephen Jackson, spent a lot of time at small forward. This allowed the Grizzlies to get Mayo significant minutes without his having to guard Jackson, who has torched him in the past. Instead, the Grizzlies were able to put Mayo on relatively non-threatening reserve guards Matt Carroll and Gerald Henderson for most of his minutes.
Nightly Number: The Grizzlies registered a season-high 30 assists tonight on 43 field-goal attempts. In addition to the strong performance of the point guards in this area, it was particularly nice to see Gay (5) and Mayo (4) getting into the act.
The Match-Up: With the Grizzlies able to avoid the Jackson-Mayo match-up, they were able to rotate a series of bigger, stronger defenders on the Bobcats, top scorer, using Xavier Henry, Gay, and Tony Allen all at different times and all effectively, leading to Jackson needing 6-17 shooting to register a team-high but still meager 16 points.
The Jacob Riis Report: In a game this lopsided it's hard to take much away from the Bobcats, who have one of the least promising rosters in the league. With Jackson and Wallace good players but well into their primes, there are only two young players on the Bobcats roster who seem to have much future value: Second-year point guard D.J. Augustin had a respectable night with 10 points, 5 rebounds, 7 assists, 3 steals, and only 2 turnovers. He's a nice player, but, much like Mike Conley before this season, it's unclear if he's best suited to be a starter or high-level reserve long-term. And then there's reserve forward Tyrus Thomas, who signed the same 5-year, $40 million deal this summer that Conley did but, despite good per-minute production, hasn't been able to crack Larry Brown's starting lineup. Thomas finished with 12 points on 4-6 shooting, but was pretty much invisible until garbage time.
Tweet O’ the Game: @chrisvernonshow hasn't tweeted about OJ going for 24 pts tonight. Quick! Somebody make sure he's not dead or in jail. — @fantasyverno (Hey — Didn't @fantasyverno break some kind of Fake Tweeter law here by acknowledging his target?)
Arena Action: NBA commissioner David Stern was in attendance. I missed his media availability but, unsurprisingly, nothing newsworthy really came of it. The house band tonight was the terrific John Paul Keith & the One Four Fives.
Where They Stand: The win moves the Grizzlies to 12-14, tied with Portland for ninth place in the Western Conference and only one game behind the Phoenix Suns for the 8th seed.
Looking Ahead: The Grizzlies hit the road this weekend for a tough back-to-back Texas set, facing the Houston Rockets Friday and the San Antonio Spurs Saturday. The Houston game would be a good one to get as the Rockets beat the Grizzlies at home in the teams' previous meetings and are creeping up behind them in the Western Conference standings. The Spurs game on the back half of that two-night set is going to be a tough one.
Announced Attendance: 12,219
Clash of the Titans I: Hasheem Thabeet vs. Kwame Brown in the battle of notorious draft busts. Advantage: Thabeet! Thabeet scored a season-high 8 points. (Yeah, I know, that was a really sad sentence.) He was relatively efficient (2-2 from the floor, 4-6 from the line, no turnovers), grabbed a few boards, had a block, and generally showed a pulse. He was and will always be a terrible pick, but unless or until he's traded, it's far too early for the team to give up on him, so seeing him get into a game and generally hold his own was nice.
Clash of the Titans II: Hamed Haddadi vs. DaSagna Diop in the battle of little-used third-string centers. Advantage: Haddadi! I really didn't think we'd see Hamed on the court again this season, but with DeMarre Carroll send down to the D League, he was on the active roster and when Marc Gasol and Thabeet both got into some first-half foul trouble, he got the call. The first past to him bounced off his hands and he seemed surprised to see the ball heading his way. It had been awhile. But Haddadi converted a lay-up soon after.
Tony Allen was modestly effective in 12 minutes of court time tonight, but I nearly gave him my Man of the Match for his contributions from the bench, where he was probably the most animated, vocal, supportive, and entertaining bench cheerleader in franchise history. Now that Allen's back in the rotation and seemingly at peace with his role, a happy Allen's energy could be a plus even when he's not in the game.
This is the fourth straight game in which the Grizzlies have held opponents under 100 points and the third straight in which the team has limited opponents to fewer than 85 points. The opposition has had a lot to do with that, but there's no doubt that the team's defense has also been more effective.