Zach Randolph had 20 points and 7 rebounds on 10-18 shooting, completing a 20-10 back-to-back set that eased concerns about this ability to produce at an All-Star level.
Jerryd Bayless went 15-4-5 on 6-9 shooting off the bench. This is his eighth straight game in double-digits, giving more confidence that he can be counted on as a legitimate sixth man and can make up some of the scoring lost with the Rudy Gay deal.
Tony Wroten and Ed Davis — the team's two most athletic and high-upside young players, both of whom Lionel Hollins seems reluctant to give consistent rotation minutes — got in the game and both produced in their limited time. Davis took — and made — only one shot in his nine minutes, but also snatched 6 rebounds and had a block. Wroten, as has typically been the case, came into the game and made plays. He hit a three (!). He moved off the ball for a lay-up. He dropped three dimes and added a block of his own in nine minutes. Davis and Wroten were the only players to garner multiple minutes and have a positive plus/minus.
But that was outweighed by the bad:
Darrell Arthur was dreadful for the second night in a row (1-6 from the floor and zero rebounds in 16 minutes).
Mike Conley got lit up by an opposing point guard for the second night in a row, with the Hawks' Jeff Teague notching 22 points and 13 assists on 7-10 shooting.
Tayshaun Prince has gone from “good” to “okay” to “bad” in three games with the team, though there's no reason to think that's a meaningful trend. What is probably more meaningful is that Prince has played 99 minutes for the Grizzlies now and hasn't launched a three-point attempt. That will change, but the wishful notion that adding Prince was going to positively impact the team's three-point shooting is being swiftly deflated.
And, most meaningful of all, the team's defense — particularly in transition and particularly at the three-point line — was wildly out of character. The Hawks, one of the NBA's best three-point shooting teams anyway, blew the game open in the second quarter with a series of open transition threes. On the game, the Hawks were 10-24 from long-range, literally doubling-up the Grizzlies from beyond the arc.
This was a rare game where the Conley Correlation didn't hold (he had 17 points, 8 assists, and only 2 turnovers), but, for this team, sucking on defense is a game-changer when it comes to the usual indicators.
The defensive performance had nothing to do with personnel and everything to do with focus and effort. With the offense — which had been really bad for a while before the trades — showing signs of respectability, I think the current malaise is much more about wounded attitude/chemistry than change in quality of personnel. (I also wonder if the mental energy required to re-orient the offense on the fly has sapped the focus on the other end a bit.)
The pieces are still there to compete for the fourth seed and have a competitive showing in the playoffs, if the team can get it's head straight. Toward that end, I thought the quotes and reporting from Rob Fischer from the post-game locker-room was encouraging. It sounded like more than empty platitudes and more like some team leaders — notably Gasol and Tony Allen — determined to pull this back together.
Certainly, Friday night against hot-shooting playoff rival the Golden State Warriors will be an important test.