Monday, March 4, 2013

Weekend Road Recap — Florida Split

Posted By on Mon, Mar 4, 2013 at 9:03 AM

Marc Gasol had a massive weekend.
The Grizzlies failed to set a new franchise record for consecutive wins this weekend, their eight-game win streak coming to an end Friday night in Miami against the defending champion Heat. But the Grizzlies' 1-1 Florida road trip was probably as encouraging as anything in the streak.

The Heat were winners of 12 in a row coming into Friday's game, but the Grizzlies played them tight — neither team led by more than seven points — in their building, despite Zach Randolph turning an ankle on the opening play and being less than full strength the remainder of the game. It was a one-point game with 24 seconds to play when Lebron James hit a straightaway three to put the Heat up four and force the Grizzlies to foul. James' free throws extended the final scoring margin. Up until that point, James had scored only 10 points on 3-13 shooting, Tayshaun Prince and the Grizzlies' stellar team defense perhaps more effective against James than any team has been this season.

On the other end, the Grizzlies were able to rebound from their troubling recent offensive slide — it was their first game over 100 points per 100 possessions since before the All-Star break, per NBA.com — despite not generating many points off turnovers. The Heat's lack of quality size had something to do with that, as Marc Gasol had one of his best all-around games of the season, going for 24-9-4 on 8-13 shooting. One wonders if the outcome might have been a little different if Gasol and Mike Conley had made it back into the game a little earlier in the fourth. (They each checked in at the 5:01 mark.) But it's easy to second-guess and Gasol and Conley did play 36 and 34 minutes on the game.

The Grizzlies followed the nip-and-tuck loss in Miami with a buzzer-to-buzzer win (108-82) early Sunday evening in Orlando, in which the Grizzlies led by as much as 32 before a full fourth quarter of extended practice time for Tony Wroten, Jon Leuer, and even Dexter Pittman.

Make no mistake, the Magic are really terrible. But this was still a blowout road win without Randolph (sitting out due to the ankle injury against Miami) and with only nine minutes from Darrell Arthur (who came down hard in the second quarter and sat in the second half).

Gasol was again sharp, tying his career high with eight assists — in the first half. He finished short of a triple double, with 12 points on 5-6 shooting to go with 11 assists and 5 rebounds. Ed Davis took advantage of the chance for more minutes by putting up a double-double — 10 and 10, on 5-6 shooting and with three blocks — in 25 minutes, showcasing his usual array of gangly but explosive plays around the rim. Wroten (8 points, 5 assists, 3-6 shooting) and Leuer (6 points, 4 rebounds, 3-6 shooting) gave the team good minutes. And the Grizzlies got the kind of group effort (11-24) from three-point range of which it would be nice to see more.

An ongoing concern: Jerryd Bayless still on a downturn.

Randolph and Arthur are both likely to be day-to-day, but with two days off before a home game Wednesday against Portland and then a weekend back-to-back with Cleveland and New Orleans, this seems like a chance to get Davis and perhaps Leuer some meaningful but still low-risk run.

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