The Lead: The Grizzlies bounced back from their season-worst 33-point loss to the Miami Heat on Saturday with a 23-point win tonight. (Subject for someone else to research: Is this is biggest game-to-game point swing in franchise history?) After losing their past two games and looking ahead to brutal road games at New York, Boston, and Chicago in the next couple of weeks, the Grizzlies badly needed this one tonight. They got it dominating this one from buzzer to buzzer — leading by as many as 31 points and never trailing.
But the win probably takes a back seat to injury issues as the story of the night. And the news isn't as good on that front.
Rudy Gay, out since February 15th with a left shoulder injury, had a follow-up MRI this morning, and the news was mixed. Gay had hoped to be cleared for on-court work, but that didn't happen. Results showed that the shoulder is healing — allaying, for the moment, fears that surgery might be required — but not fast enough for Gay to get back to basketball activity. The team is not specifying a timetable for Gay's return, but he is likely to be re-evaluated in a couple of weeks with the hope that Gay can still get back in time for the post-season.
As if the Gay news wasn't enough, Marc Gasol came up limping in the second quarter after Clippers center DeAndre Jordan stepped on his right ankle — the same one Gasol injured in the preseason. Gasol came back to play most of the third quarter, but went to the locker room for x-rays when he finally left the court. The results were negative, but Gasol is being listed as day-to-day.
Man of the Match: Zach Randolph's Tour of Domination against young power forwards who made the All-Star Game ahead of him continued. One of the stories of the night was Blake Griffin's first appearance at FedExForum — at least since college. But Griffin didn't give Grizzlies fans much of a show. He had one nice baseline spin move for a dunk, but otherwise spent his time missing shots, throwing errant passes, and getting utterly devoured by Randolph.
Two moments stood out: At the end of first half, Randolph hit a corner three in Griffin's eye to push his scoring advantage to 21-2. Late in the third, the Clippers went zone and Randolph slipped away from Griffin to catch a high-post feed from Darrell Arthur and finish with a one-handed power dunk. Griffin left the game on the next possession.
The final tally: Randolph had a game-high 30 points and 12 rebounds on 12-18 shooting. Griffin had 8 points and 9 rebounds on 4-10. It was his first single-digit scoring game of the season.
If you're keeping track, Randolph has now played Kevin Love and Blake Griffin — named to the All-Star team ahead of him while playing for worse teams with only moderately better individual stats — four times this season. In those four games, Randolph is averaging 24 points and 12 rebounds on 57% shooting. Love/Griffin are averaging 13 points and 10 rebounds on 44% shooting. The Grizzlies have won all four games.
Nightly Number: The Grizzlies ran away with this game, literally: They outscored the Clippers on the break 30-2. Many of those transition points were, of course, created off turnovers. The Grizzlies had 14 steals (from eight different players) and scored 28 points off 19 Clipper turnovers.
The Match-Up: After getting torched by Mo Williams in Cleveland earlier this year, Mike Conley bested his point guard counterpart in every category tonight. Conley's 13 points and 5 assists wasn't anything special, but it was a solid rebound after his terrible shooting performance against the Heat on Sunday. And, early in the third quarter, when the Clippers had cut a once 17-point deficit to 12 and were threatening to get back in the game, Conley wrapped two long jumpers around a steal to push the lead back to 17 and keep the Clippers at bay.
The Jacob Riis Report: Blake Griffin and injured shooter Eric Gordon are the Clippers centerpieces, but young secondary pieces DeAndre Jordon and Eric Bledsoe were impressive tonight. The seven-foot Jordan's 7 point, 3 rebound performance doesn't look like much in the box score, but he had two weakside blocks that were absolutely suffocating and his defensive presence was noticeable on other plays. As for rookie point guard Bledsoe, he jumps out at you in person with arms so long and muscular for his height that it seems almost cartoonish. Like Jordan, he's not a terribly skilled basketball player (4 turnovers to 4 assists, 0-2 from three), but is an imposing athlete than get into the paint and make things happen. Bledsoe led the Clippers with 19 tonight.
Tweet O’ the Game: Griffin making one last valiant attempt to outscore Greivis Vasquez on the night. Clips about to empty the bench, though. — @peteredmiston
Arena Action: With Griffin already struggling, the Grizzlies rubbed it in with a fourth-quarter skit in which the team mascot spoofed Griffin's dunk-over-a-Toyota-with-choral-accompaniment dunk-contest winner. Memphis Sport has video.
Where They Stand: The win moves the Grizzlies to 37-31. They gain a game on the Phoenix Suns and New Orleans Hornets, who lost tonight, and held ground with the Denver Nuggets, Utah Jazz, and Houston Rockets, who won. They gained half a game on the dormant Portland Trailblazers. The Grizzlies remain in 8th, now two games up on the now ninth place Jazz and 2.5 games up on the now 10th place Suns.
Looking Ahead: The Grizzlies will seek some revenge for last Wednesday's close home loss to the New York Knicks by traveling to Madison Square Garden for a rematch Thursday.
Announced Attendance: 15,989. A solid crowd.
After falling behind Ish Smith in recent games, Greivis Vasquez got the primary back-up point guard call tonight and responded with a career high 11 points (5-8 shooting) and 4 assists in 16 minutes. Vasquez struggled to keep in front of Eric Bledsoe and made a couple of mistakes offensively, but mitigated those problems by creating points for both himself and teammates. After a one-hand dunk on the break, Vasquez stopped to pose for his teammates.
A little lost amid all the good play was a really rough night for O.J. Mayo. Mayo's first shot attempt was a transition lay-up that was blocked cleanly from behind by Eric Bledsoe. On the ensuing in-bounds play, Mayo's mid-range jumper was blocked cleanly by Jamario Moon. For the game, Mayo was 0-5 in 19 minutes and found himself in mop-up duty as part of a lineup that includes Ish Smith, Greivis Vasquez, Leon Powe, and Hamed Haddadi.
Speaking of Leon Powe, the recent signee made his home debut after logging a few minutes in Miami Sunday, and he showed signs of threatening Hamed Haddadi's title as the Per-Minute Monster: Powe had 8 points and a rebound in only four minutes.