The Lead: After playing their first game without Rudy Gay Thursday night in Oklahoma City, the Grizzlies came home to welcome their new players into the lineup for the first time, with better results.
In-between, Prince showcased a versatile two-way game: Scoring on mid-range jumpers and long-limbed drives (14 points on 7-11) shooting. Going into the post when Darrell Arthur was able to space the floor at power forward, drawing attention and setting up Arthur for open jumpers (3 assists). Making nice post-entry feeds (perhaps the most underrated advantage he has over Gay). And closing out on shooters. His back-to-back jumpers in the final three minutes allowed the Grizzlies to finally pull away after playing roughly even with the Wizards most of the night.
“He's a veteran,” Lionel Hollins said of Prince's debut. “When you've been around, there are not any new plays. There are new calls to plays. Once you recognize what the sets are then you learn the calls and can be in the right spot. He's a high-IQ player.”
The Grizzlies won't expect Prince to be a significant scorer and would like to seem him stretch the floor a little more (0 three-point attempts). But if Prince can score in the low double-digits while playing this solid an all-around game, he'll fit in very well.
“After a few games, things will start to get better as far as settling down,” Prince said after the game. “I was in a good flow even with not knowing all the plays and things like that.”
Predictably, younger newcomers Ed Davis and Austin Daye looked far less comfortable. Hollins gave them a taste of playing time in the first half (10 minutes combined) and sat them in the second.
Hollins was happy to get a win against the Wizards team that's been much improved since finally getting both John Wall and Nene on the floor together and that's actually been quite good defensively of late. But this game wasn't much to look at, and with the team struggling both in the paint (Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph a combined 8-23) and from deep (1-7 from three), it was a grind-it-out win that didn't point the way towards an effective new offensive style in Rudy Gay's absence.
But there's time. And, now, the Grizzlies get a three-day break to get guys more comfortable. Practices on Sunday and Monday are likely to be among the most important of the season.
Nightly Number: If the offensive production wasn't much better than it's been for most of the past couple of months, the ball did move more tonight without Gay's sticky hands in the mix. The Grizzlies assisted on 22 of 35 baskets, with five players notching three or more assists.
The Match-Up: Questions about Lionel Hollins' coaching future are going to simmer until the situation is resolved, but the most important storyline for the Grizzlies right now is probably the declining production of Zach Randolph. Suffering through his worst shooting month in years, Randolph scored only 7 points on 3-10 shooting. That's three games in a row now with single-digit scoring. That hasn't happened since March of 2003, and the bigger, more athletic Nene made Randolph look very ordinary. Maybe the back strain a couple of weeks ago is still bothering him. Randolph has only topped 15 points once in eight games since that injury. He did so five times in the eight games before the injury, so that seems to be a factor. Regardless, this bears watching.
Elements of Style: Not much style in this one, though I am looking forward to watching Tayshaun Prince's Inspector Gadget game up close on the regular.
The Jacob Riis Report: Wizards rookie Bradley Beal was out with a wrist injury, so Grizzlies fans missed out on their only chance to see him this season. Injury-riddled point guard John Wall left the game in the first half with a shoulder injury, which had to give Wizards fans pause. Wall came back in the second half but didn't have a particularly good game.
“I was scared,” Wall said afterward. “I can't catch a break was all I was thinking. I went back out there and played. I could still feel the pain. I just tried to play through it and help my team out as much as possible.”
Nene was the only Wizards player to score in double figures.
Arena Action: New Grizzlies executives Jason Levien, Stu Lash, and John Hollinger all spent most of the night sitting together in the front row, at center court, as if the symbolically take ownership of this post-trade roster.
Where They Stand: The Grizzlies improved to 30-16 and maintain a one-game lead over the Golden State Warriors and Denver Nuggets for fourth place in the West.
Looking Ahead: The Grizzlies stay home and will host the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday.
Announced Attendance: 15,017, a pretty weak crowd by this season's Friday night standards.
Zach Randolph has moved into Rudy Gay's anchor position in the pre-game lineup announcement.
Gay came off the bench for a game-high 20 in his Toronto debut, as the Raptors demolished the Clippers, 98-73. The Raptors are 6.5 games behind the now injury-riddled Boston Celtics for the final playoff spot in the East. If they can squeak into the playoffs, the Oklahoma City Thunder will not get their first-round draft pick this summer.
Chris Johnson got his first DNP since joining the team, but Lionel Hollins said after the game that he'd like to re-sign the rookie to a second 10-day contract and it looks like that will happen.
Hollins also implied that fellow rookie Tony Wroten — who had two turnovers in three minutes and got a quick hook — would likely be out of the rotation for now and potentially be heading back to Reno for more D League time.
Marc Gasol didn't shoot well, but had an impactful all-around game and definitely seemed more aggressive. He had 13 points, 15 rebounds, 5 assists, and 2 blocks.