Friday, February 8, 2013

Postgame Notebook: Grizzlies 99, Warriors 93 — When a Win is More Than a Win

Posted By on Fri, Feb 8, 2013 at 11:27 PM

The Grizzlies set a new tone, on and off the court, Friday night.

The Lead: With his team standing at a crossroads in the aftermath of last week's Rudy Gay trade and its attendant controversies, Lionel Hollins used his pre-game media availability for a “calming-the-waters” address that was at once emotional, positive, and tinged with defiance. An hour later, his team took the floor and replicated that tone.

The first half was thrilling if out of character: A team that has, at times, struggled to top 85 points in a game blasted out 63 in the half, with more than 30 in each quarter. And how those points were generated was even more unlikely than the score itself: On 7-15 three-point shooting, with Tony Allen (13 points on 5-5 shooting) and Austin Daye (12 on 4-5, including 3-4 from deep) leading the way.

That was never going to be sustainable, and the third quarter, in which the Grizzlies scored only 14 points and allowed the Warriors, for the first time, to gain a lead, was all too familiar.

But the fourth quarter was vintage “grit and grind” Grizzlies. Marc Gasol made plays from the post. Zach Randolph battled on the block. Tony Allen moved onto the Warriors' top scorer, Stephen Curry, and chased him ragged, with Mike Conley fighting through screens to stick to 6'7” shooter Klay Thompson and make it possible.

The best all-around performance since the trade?

“Definitely,” said Hollins after the game. “And against a very good opponent. I thought our team played really well. It was a baby step in terms of coming back and being a good team, which we haven't been, and playing with passion and energy. I'm proud of the effort tonight.

Start to finish, as far as changing the mood around the team and rebuilding morale, this win and all that came with it felt like it was worth about five for the Grizzlies.

Said Hollins after the game: “We are trying to rebuild trust in each other. We are trying to become a good team again, committed to each other, playing for each other, and trusting each other. We were plugging, helping, and scrambling all over the court covering for each other and that's how you become a good team.

“This is how we play. We needed our guys to get their spirit and commitment back.”

Man of the Match: Marc Gasol
Man of the Match: With 33 seconds to play, Marc Gasol kissed in a 20-footer to seal the Bird/Garnett stat line — 20-10-5 — and, with it, the game. A few minutes earlier, he had the sequence of the game, a chaotic, nearly minute-long Grizzlies possession in which he had two offensive rebounds, saved a loose ball along the sideline that sent him rumbling into the first row, and then finished off the possession with a locomotive running hook shot that put the Grizzlies up four and sent Gasol running back flexing and yelling.

“We needed that,” Gasol said of the win. “We knew we needed it and I think we're going to need more of that going forward.”

Gasol went on the say that, “We take a lot of pride in representing the city and when we're not playing the way we're supposed to play, we're down. We're also mad because we let down a lot of fans. We think about that. It's in our minds.”

Nightly Number: This game pitted perhaps the league's best three-point shooting team against perhaps the worst. But the Grizzlies somehow managed to beat the Warriors at their own game, hitting 8-20 from deep to Golden State's 6-17.

The Grizzlies did most their damage between the late first quarter and mid-second. Austin Daye — a seven-foot Wayne Ellington given his three-point shooting ability but minimal all-around game — hit three triples in the span of about three minutes. When he cooled off, Jerryd Bayless took over, taking three long-range shots — and making two of them — in less than a minute. Tony Allen even got into the act, dropping one from the corner. In this stretch, the Grizzlies seemed to be looking for three-point shots in a way I can't remember ever seeing with this iteration of the team.

This predictably gave way to a more typical 1-5 three-point performance in the second half, but the Grizzlies did good work on the defensive end most of the game, outside of one Steph Curry mini-explosion in the early fourth, in which he knocked down two in the span of 16 seconds to swing the game from a three-point Grizzlies lead to a three-point Warriors lead.

Otherwise, Conley and Allen put the clamps on in the final seven-plus minutes, holding Curry and backcourt mate Thompson to only one three-point attempt, a miss. Hollins confessed after the game that the cross-match was the players' idea. Hollins was going to put Conley on Curry when Conley re-entered the game, but Conley said to let Tony stay with him. “I've got Thompson,” Conley told his coach. And he did.

Austin Daye had a mini Wayne Ellington Game with three quick threes.
  • Austin Daye had a mini Wayne Ellington Game with three quick threes.
The Match-Up: Displaying his smooth mid-range jumper, Warriors' power forward David Lee put up 20 in the first half, but was limited in the second, finishing with 26 points. Zach Randolph, who shot only 4-13, wasn't quite as sharp, but he was tougher down the stretch. Randolph out-rebounded Lee 12 to 6 and notched two more free-throws.

Once upon a time, Lee vs. Randolph was a key decision for the Grizzlies. Pursue Lee in free agency or trade for Randolph? My vote at the time was for Lee, and I think that would have worked out fine. But Randolph probably worked out better. Both will be All-Stars next week, and Lee probably has more good years going forward. But Lee wouldn't have put a city on his back the way Randolph did two springs ago, and while he would have been very popular, he wouldn't have become an icon and tone-setter the way Randolph has.

Elements of Style: Even with the Grizzlies' great fourth-quarter defense, Stephen Curry still had a game-high 32 points on 11-22 shooting. His jumper is radiant. Even when he's raining them down on your team, you can't quite hate him for it. You have to appreciate being in the presence of something so pure.

On the opposite end of the style spectrum, Tony Allen ended his terrific two-way game on a bit of a bum note with what had to be one of the most brain-dead moments of his basketball life. Allen went to the line with his team up five points and 29 seconds left to play. He missed both free throws — hey, it happens — but after getting the offensive rebound, instead of running clock and forcing another foul, Allen immediately went back up with a shot, instead picking up an offensive foul and fouling himself out in the process, giving Golden State a faint hint of life.

The Jacob Riis Report: When healthy, the pieces fit really well on the Golden State team, but you have to wonder if they really have the toughness to make noise in the post-season. It would help if Andrew Bogut could get back to something approaching his vintage form. But Bogut is still limited, both in terms of minutes (28 tonight) and health. He doesn't look right, but it's a tribute to his talent and tenacity that he's able to be effective anyway. It feels like a better Bogut is the key to the Warriors' playoff sleeper hopes, but I'm not sure if they're going to get it.

Tweet O’ the Game: "Bogut contested that Mike Conley layup so well that he had to come out because he had Conley's blood on his hands." — @noamschiller

"Post- @aa000G9 (Tony Allen) on @Adaye5 getting hot tonight, "When he got his opportunity, he showed his butt tonight." #Tacompliments" — @thefishnation

Arena Action: Before the game, Zach Randolph received the NBA's “Community Assist” award for January for his charitable work in Memphis.

Where They Stand: The Grizzlies improved to 31-18 but stayed in fifth in the West, a half game back of the Nuggets.

Looking Ahead: They'll stay at home to face the Minnesota Timberwolves on Sunday, with a 5 p.m. tip

Announced Attendance: 16,701


I didn't have time to transcribe Lionel Hollins' full 22-minute pre-game session. But here's his opening statement, before he took some questions. I'll try to get into the rest later:

“I just want to say, there's been a lot of negativity around our team and me and my feelings about the trade and my feelings about management and most of it is as far from the truth as it can be. I've been in the NBA for 30 years both as a player and a coach and I've worked for a number of organizations, and different regimes. And I've always been a team player and I've always tried to come out and do the best job I could do. I haven't always agreed with every decision that every owner or general manager has made. And it hasn't been that way since I've been here. But the one thing I've always prided myself on is going out and doing the best job I could possibly do with what I have in front of me.

“It seems that a lot of my comments are taken in a context that I'm trying to be against management and the ownership that I have. Both trades that were made, I was in communication. They kept me abreast of what was going on. I had my opinion and my suggestions and they went the way that they went. Once that decision is made, and it's always been that way since I've been here. We've signed certain players and traded for certain players and drafted certain players. Was I in agreement with everything that was done? No. But that wasn't my call because it wasn't my responsibility to make all these decisions. My responsibility is to coach whatever players are on our roster. That's what I'm going to continue to do.

“I would hope that if anyone has an issue with something that I say, I wish you would ask me about it in the context that I'm saying it in.

“I will say this in regard to the trade: Was I disappointed? Of course I was disappointed. Would I have not liked to break up our team? Of course not. But it doesn't mean I loved Rudy Gay more than I love Zach Randolph. It doesn't mean I can't go on without Rudy Gay. I've been traded myself. We've traded players I've wanted to trade. We've traded players I didn't want to trade. But life goes on and me, as a leader, I have to move forward and bring a spirit of work and togetherness and let our players know that this is the business of basketball. I think our players have probably had a little hangover as well because I know they wanted to go forward with the group we had and see what we could do.

“I've been here five years and I've taken the kids from baby steps to what I thought was a pretty good roster to do what I thought we could do. Whether we could or not remains to be seen. There's no guarantees in this thing and when decisions are made above my head, I just have to run with it. Do I have to agree with it? No. When we brought in Allen Iverson, did I agree with it? No. There are a lot of decisions I haven't agreed with. But the one thing I'm good at is working my butt off to try to make the players we have as good as we can and the team as good as we can.

“I hope that comments that I make aren't turned into I hate management or I disagree with everything that they do, because it's far from the truth. And when I make a comment at a post-game conference it's about that particular game. To address that a little bit, the reality was they went with Marcin Gortat and Jermaine O'Neal. Two five guys. And they were kicking our butt with Zach and Darrell. And Marc, with five fouls, we couldn't put a [center] in the game. We had to stay with two fours. That was the point I was trying to make. Did I sound whiny? I was disappointed about the game, so I could have sounded whiny at that point. Have I been emotional about the trade? Yes, I've been emotional about the trade. But I don't want it to be taken that I can't move forward and for my players to take it that I can't move forward. Because I have and I will. And I expect them too. I've got the same expectations. I'll be putting the same demands on the new guys that I've put on the guys who were here before.

“As I told them this morning, some guys have come from situations where they weren't winning. I put a lot of expectations on working hard and being tough and being aggressive, and I'll continue to do that. This whole firestorm that has risen up around the country is incredible to me because it's just a freakin game. Rudy Gay's life will go on because he's still going to get paid $19 million a year wherever he plays. Life will go on because all of our players are well-compensated. I'm well-compensated. Life will go on. Do we have emotions about certain things? Yes we do. When you raise somebody from a child up to manhood. I've been with these guys who have been together when they were winning 22 games to now getting up to 45 or 48 games or whatever we were projected at last year. There's always a let down when something like that happens. But it is the business of basketball and I understand it very well. I've been around it long enough. I've been in situations where I was traded because of money. So I do understand it. “

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