Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Grizzlies 110, Suns 91: Here's Jonny and Eddie

Posted By on Wed, Dec 4, 2013 at 8:11 AM

Well, it wasn't the Tuesday night game against the Phoenix Suns that we were expecting, but it was the one that we got—and what a game it was. The Grizzlies, without Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol for the second straight game, came out and punished the Suns' bigs all night long, with Ed Davis and Kosta Koufos both racking up double doubles (Jon Leuer was only one rebound short) and Davis and Leuer both scoring over 20 points.

Jon Leuer put up 23-9 in Tuesdays victory over the Suns.

It wasn't an end-to-end win, either. The Grizzlies were ahead after one, but found themselves trailing by 8 at halftime after being outscored 35-23 in the second quarter—partially because the Suns started hitting lots of jumpers, but also because the Grizzlies didn't have good defensive lineups on the floor. If they had come out and played a flat third quarter, which they've done on occasion this season, the game would've been over then, except there wouldn't have been any bench players to play in garbage time because they were all playing. Instead, the Grizzlies came out and scored 36 in the third while holding Phoenix to 20, and maintained a lead of their own through the rest of the game.

One obviously wishes for Randolph and Gasol to return to the lineup soon, because the matchups won't always be this favorable, but it was great to see Koufos, Davis, and Leuer—and especially Leuer, who has struggled to get minutes in this frontcourt—come out and play big minutes and play them well. All told, the three of them racked up 58 points, 33 rebounds, and 7 blocks. The inside game also led to a double double for Conley, who had 18 points and 14 assists. Seven Grizzlies players (the starting five of Conley, Allen, Prince, Davis, and Koufos plus Leuer and Bayless) scored in double digits. An all around team win, against a team that was supposed to be terrible but has been playing above .500 so far, while missing two of the team's three best players.

Three Things I Liked

— Ed Davis was great. He was great on offense, where he hit jumpers I wasn't convinced he could hit, and fought and scratched for every rebound, and drew contact as often as he could, eventually breaking out his own variant of the Z-Bo mean mug. He was great on defense, where his athleticism led him to make some plays (and yes, Dave Joerger might have been telling him where to be on defense from the bench, but with Marc Gasol not there, I figure that's OK). It was the game that Ed Davis' supporters have been wanting him to play all along, and yes, it was against Phoenix, but that's exactly the type of game Ed Davis should have against Phoenix.

— Equally great was Jon Leuer. He's known as a stretch big, somebody who can shoot from way out to keep defenses honest, but when given a great deal of run like he was Tuesday night, Leuer proved he can do more than that. He had three or four monster dunks. He blocked shots. He was using post moves and hitting hook shots. He also shot 1-2 from three point range. Leuer was everywhere on both ends of the floor Tuesday night, and as a result he had career highs in scoring and rebounds. I'm not going to say I wasn't surprised by Leuer's big game, but I wasn't shocked. The guy is a good basketball player. The Grizzlies' heavily pick-and-roll oriented sets Tuesday night really opened he and Davis up for scoring opportunities against Phoenix's bigs. Leuer is a capable player, and when Randolph gets back, it's going to go back to being hard for him to find the minutes he deserves, and that sucks, but that's the way basketball is sometimes. Looks like the preseason Jon Leuer might not have been a fluke.

— Tony Allen scored eleven points on eleven shots, which is more efficient that he's been as of late. Several times Tony Allen took a pull up jumper and it went in, something that hasn't happened much in the past, if we're honest. I don't want Allen's newfound offensive prowess to come at the expense of his defense, but if his shooting can stay at this level—that is, passable—maybe he can provide just the tiniest bit of space that the Grizzlies' lumbering bigs (Gasol and Randolph, not Davis and Leuer, who do no lumbering) need to operate. Maybe. Not if he gets carried away with it.

Three Things I Didn't Like

— Ed Malloy was Mr. Technical Foul on Tuesday night. Tony Allen got one for complaining, and then Eric Bledsoe got one for complaining, and then Goran Dragic got one, presumably for saying something to Jerryd Bayless that made Bayless want to fight him. I'm not sure it takes much to make Jerryd Bayless want to fight somebody, though.

— Nick Calathes was terrible, especially against Dragic and Bledsoe. He dribbled out two straight shot clocks looking for a pass that never came, and when he made the pass, it was too low and the bigs had to pick it up off the floor before they could do anything with it. I'm not overly worried about it, though. Calathes is a rookie, and Dragic/Bledsoe is a good frontcourt. Even if it weren't, you have to be okay with a few bad nights for a young guy like that if you want him to develop into the player he can be. So, yes, he was awful. But I don't think it was a referendum on his qualifications for NBA play.

— Quincy Pondexter sat on the bench again, this time for showing up his coach during the Grizzlies' loss to the Nets on Saturday. Pondexter went on a hot streak and then returned to the bench staring down Joerger, who hadn't been playing Pondexter due to his crappy start to the season. Turns out that was a bad idea, and several have said that Pondexter was rebuked for that behavior by coaches and teammates alike, and he sat out Tuesday night's game as a result. Pondexter's a good guy, so with any luck this was just an isolated incident of a guy letting his emotions get away from him. Quincy has had a pretty miserable 2013-14 season so far, from the poor play to the broken nose, and now it's all this. Hopefully things turn around for him, and soon.

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