Sunday, February 10, 2013

Postgame Notebook: Grizzlies 105, Wolves 88 — Good Signs, With an Asterisk

Posted By on Sun, Feb 10, 2013 at 8:48 PM

Mike Conley helped lead a balanced, share-the-ball attack as the Grizzlies won comfortably against the depleted Timberwolves.
  • LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Mike Conley helped lead a balanced, share-the-ball attack as the Grizzlies won comfortably against the depleted Timberwolves.
The Lead: The Grizzlies were facing a Minnesota Timberwolves team in a world of hurt, playing without Kevin Love and Andrei Kirilenko, among many others, and owners of exactly one road win this season without Love in the lineup. So there's a limit to how much you can learn from this one.

But it did display two hopeful new facts of life for Grizzlies basketball following the Rudy Gay trade: Ball movement and depth.

The Grizzlies assisted on 30 of 41 baskets, with Marc Gasol and Mike Conley sharing the team lead with 8 each and Tony Allen, Jerryd Bayless, and Tony Wroten chipping in three each. The 30 assists was a season high.

The beneficiaries of much of the his passing largess were the team's two new small forwards, Tayshaun Prince and Austin Daye, who combined to score 34 points on 14-17 shooting. (Prince was a perfect 8-8.) Don't expect production quite like that ever again, but the contrast between Prince and Daye and the departed Rudy Gay is pretty stark. Some nights the Grizzlies' will miss Gay's isolation scoring. But with Prince cutting well off the ball and spotting up in the corner and Daye finding space for a potentially deadly catch-and-shoot game, they can help supply points without stopping the ball. In this one, nine of their 14 buckets were assisted. Two of the other five were tip-ins.

The Grizzlies' assist rate shot up immediately after the trade. Improved scoring has lagged behind, but we've seen that this weekend. Hopefully it's a trend and not a blip.

“The ball movement is getting contagious,” Lionel Hollins said after the game. “Everybody is moving the ball. It's nice; giving goals to Zach, guys cutting. The whole team is just looking to make the extra pass and the extra play. When you make shots, the assists do pile up, but I think the willingness to pass is important, and we are doing that.”

Tony Allen imposed his physicality on the defensive end.
As for depth, with Quincy Pondexter making his return after missing 22 games with a sprained MCL, the Grizzlies played 11 players in the first half. Pondexter's re-entry — a four-minute toe-dip — was a little rough, but young pups Ed Davis and Tony Wroten, while on the outside looking in relative to any kind of consistent or substantial rotation spot, showed their promise. Davis with poster-dunk on Wolves center Nikola Pekovic. Wroten with a nervy halfcourt alley-oop feed to Jerryd Bayless, part of 7 points and 3 assists in under 11 minutes.

The competition will get tougher, but this was a good game for building chemistry and a hopefully a more aesthetically pleasing, more team-oriented offense.

Man of the Match: Hard to pick out one player after such a balanced performance, but I'll go with Mike Conley, who had 16 points, 8 assists, and zero turnovers. The Grizzlies opened the fourth quarter with a 20-point lead and five bench players, but the reserves weren't able to sustain it. A 16-7 Wolves run threatened to turn it into a game again, but Conley's speedy reverse lay-up soon after re-entering the game pushed the lead back to 13 and settled the team down, with the Wolves never getting closer again.

Nightly Number: The Grizzlies were able to turn defense into offense, scoring 26 points off 20 Wolves turnovers, many of those on the break, where the Grizzlies outscored the Wolves 20-4 on the game.

The Match-Up: Luke Ridnour scored 17 points on 7-13 shooting, but 9 of those (4-5 shooting) came in the fourth quarter, when Tony Allen spent the entire quarter watching from the bench. That's not a coincidence. Through three quarters, much of it with Allen on him, Ridnour was 3-8 with four turnovers, two of those picked off by Allen, who dominated the match-up physically as the catalyst for the team's defense-into-offense success.

Elements of Style: Beyond the Arc has unearthed exclusive footage of Wolves center Nikola Pekovic from his pre-NBA career, when he wrestled many classic matches with then-WWF champion Bob Backlund:

The Jacob Riis Report: As a former Wolves fan, watching this version of what was, at the beginning of the season, a very promising team, was a little sad. I mean, they're starting Mickael Gelabale. A recovering Ricky Rubio (17 points, 4 assists) and lanky rookie Alexey Shved (10 points, 9 assists) are lively. And ex-Griz Dante Cunningham (9 points, 5 rebounds) remains a favorite with his defensive versatility (he played both three and four) and useful mid-range jumper. But Rick Adelman just doesn't have a lot to work with at the moment.

Trade throw-in Austin Daye has surprised for the Grizzlies so far.
  • LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Trade throw-in Austin Daye has surprised for the Grizzlies so far.
Tweet O’ the Game: Daye can really shoot it. He can really help in a game where he doesn't have matchup problem on other end. — @Carpenter6

You know what? Maybe so. I wasn't expecting much from Daye for a couple of reasons: Through three-plus NBA seasons he hasn't been very good (and was terrible last year) and has severe strength issues on the defensive end. Secondly, the Grizzlies didn't seek him out in the deal. Daye was included solely for salary purposes, to keep Detroit under the luxury tax.

But Lionel Hollins saw something he liked in practice, and maybe that positive re-enforcement has helped Daye, who, as a legitimate shooter with length, is the kind of player the Grizzlies haven't really had. So far, he hasn't had to face a team that can really go after him defensively — though, coming off the bench, perhaps that can be avoided more often than not — and hasn't had to deal with a minutes crunch that is sure to come as Quincy Pondexter rounds into form. But Daye has 28 points and 5-8 three-point shooting over the past two games and is playing with confidence. Maybe this can hold up for awhile.

Arena Action: The in-game dance cam featured a presumably drunken fan who took off his shirt and smeared barbecue sauce all over his torso. Let this be the last we see of that dude. Please. Better entertainment was the dance-off between a legion of mascots and the Griz Girls dance team.

Where They Stand: The Grizzlies improve to 32-18. With the Denver losing the Boston in triple overtime, the Grizzlies moved back into fourth place in the Western Conference.

Looking Ahead: The Grizzlies will have one more game before the All-Star break, hosting the Sacramento Kings on Tuesday night.

Announced Attendance: 16,023

Deflections:

The Grizzlies improved to 15-0 when scoring at least 100 points.

The Grizzlies have held opponents to fewer than 100 points in all 28 home games this season, the longest streak to start a season by any team in the shot-clock era.

Tayshaun Prince tied a franchise record for most field goals without a miss, last set by Tony Allen last season in Minnesota.

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