Saturday, January 18, 2014

Grizzlies 91, Kings 90: Winning Ugly Still Counts

Posted By on Sat, Jan 18, 2014 at 10:51 AM

Marc Gasols return paid dividends against DeMarcus Cousins in last nights win.
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • Marc Gasol's return paid dividends against DeMarcus Cousins in last night's win.

It felt like the Grizzlies were never going to get into a rhythm, and at times in the fourth quarter, it felt like the Kings had established a lead that would be hard for the Grizzlies to overcome. In the end, though, the Grizzlies were able to fend off a last-second Rudy Gay attempt at a game winner by forcing him to bobble the ball, which referee Marc Davis somehow decided was a jump ball.

The Grizzlies won the jump ball and thus the game. A win is a win, but this one felt uglier than it needed to be. Inserting Marc Gasol back into the picture has taken the Grizzlies from a fast-paced, high scoring offense back into, well, Grizzly territory. Gasol and Courtney Lee have never played together before. When asked about it last night in the locker room, Gasol said that when he was going through his light workouts last week, he wasn't even with the first team—he was with the second team so the starters could practice together.

Re-integrating Gasol into the Grizzlies' overall scheme is going to be a challenge for Dave Joerger, especially since the way the team plays shifted so much in his absence with the addition of James Johnson and Courtney Lee to the roster. So far, having Gasol on the floor has greatly slowed the Grizzlies down, both because he's never been much of a runner and also because, as Joerger pointed out in his post game comments, the rest of the Grizzlies got used to playing without him and now aren't always sure where everyone is going to be on the floor at any given point.

Last night, though, the Grizzlies were able to contain DeMarcus Cousins (except not without fouling him) and keep Rudy Gay to 19 points on 18 shots (a more "Bad Rudy"-like stat line than he's been putting up lately) and at the same time got 25 points and 6 assists out of Mike Conley, which was enough to get it done.

Game Notes

• The Grizzlies lost the rebounding battle in a big way, especially on the offensive boards where they only managed 2 OREBS per half for a total of 4. The Kings ended up with 10, and overall out-rebounded the Grizzlies by six. That's not normal, but it does point to the skill of DeMarcus Cousins. There were also times when the Kings had huge lineups on the floor, using so much size that Rudy Gay or Derrick Williams were the nominal shooting guard.

• Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol both thought last night was a block party, each blocking 4 shots. Two of Gasol's blocks came against Rudy Gay, and I have to admit: they were fun to watch.

• Nick Calathes had a great run in the first half. Legitimately good. He made some plays, hit a 3-pointer, kept the ship afloat with Conley on the bench, and then spent some time on the floor together with Conley while the Grizzlies tried to maintain a lead going into halftime. The crowd went crazy every time he did something good—almost a little too crazy, "sorry we booed you" crazy. Talking to Marc Gasol after the game, he said the cheers for Calathes made him really happy because "fans don't know how bad it hurts to get booed by your own side. I can't tell people not to do it, but I wish they wouldn't."

• Speaking of booing, fans had something worth booing last night: Marc Davis' officiating was pretty circumspect, especially the jump ball call that ended the game. Tom Ziller of SB Nation has a really good breakdown of what happened, including footage of the play. After the game I asked Tayshaun Prince how Davis explained the jump ball call, and Prince said he just said something about returning to the floor with the ball (which Gay did because he lost his handle on it, not because any Griz player's hand was on it) and told him to drop it. Not a good call, and not a way to end a close-fought game. No matter how the game ended last night, the losing coach would've had every right to blame the officiating. It wasn't good.

• Now the Grizzlies have a break before they take on the New Orleans Pelicans on Monday in the annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Game. The halftime entertainer this year is Charley Pride, and I have to say, that fills me with an unreasonable amount of excitement. The Pelicans have been decimated by injuries this year, with Jrue Holiday and Ryan Anderson both out for extended periods and Tyreke Evans currently nursing a bone bruise in his left ankle, but Anthony Davis gave Gasol absolute fits the first time these teams faced off. It'll be an interesting game, and a chance for the Grizzlies to win their first division game of the year—they're currently the only team in the league without a single division win.

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