Last night, the Grizzlies came out and beat the Utah Jazz from start to finish, from the Courtney Lee layup to go up 2-0 to the Mike Conley free throws that made it a ten-point game.
There were times when the Grizzlies looked like they were already thinking about whatever they were going to be doing after the game—maybe a nice dinner, maybe a hot date, maybe going home and reading a book in bed—anything but the fact that they were still on a basketball court in the middle of an NBA game. Unsurprisingly, the still-building Jazz pounced on those opportunities and made a close game of it, with Trey Burke dueling Mike Conley early on, Alec Burks exercising his smooth shooting stroke, and Gordon Hayward mostly having a bad shooting night but making them when they mattered.
The Grizzlies picked on Enes Kanter most of the night with Marc Gasol, and it worked out: Gasol ended up having himself a 20-10 game, with 3 assists and 4 blocks in addition. Zach Randolph went one louder in both categories with 21-11. It was a good night for the Grizzlies inside, even though the Jazz appear to be trying to build something similar with their Favors/Kanter tandem down low.
Another highlight was the Richard Jefferson/Tayshaun Prince matchup, in which the 2003 Eastern Conference Finals came back to everybody like a bad LSD flashback, with Prince scoring 4 points on 2-7 shooting in 30 minutes and Jefferson finishing up with 9.
Even though the crowd behind the bench was clamoring for James Johnson, there was a different guy who I thought should have been getting those minutes: Tony Allen. The starting lineup I'd like to see—Conley, Lee, Allen, Randolph, and Gasol—have only played 24 minutes together this season, starting in February when Allen returned from injury. In those 24 minutes (which is admittedly a very small sample size) they've got an offensive rating of 120.2 and a defensive rating of 73.4 (meaning they outscore their opponents by .468 points per possession—a ludicrous number).
I get that Prince is starting because he's a veteran and it's a respect thing or whatever. I do. But starting him doesn't mean playing him these minutes, and if Joerger isn't willing to play Johnson for whatever reason—and let's be clear: there are certainly valid reasons for doing so, even if I disagree with a lot of them—Allen is clearly the guy who should be getting some run at the small forward spot. What's that? He's too small? Kevin Durant would like to speak with you.
For the Conley/Lee/Allen/Z-Bo/Gasol grouping to have only appeared in five games so far is pretty nuts. I would think that Joerger would want to explore that option more with his shortened rotation, since those are all guys he's already playing major minutes, just not together.
That was my main takeaway from last night. The rest of the game was solid—Nick Calathes played well, and he and Marc Gasol developed some new wrinkles in their ever-evolving chemistry (I'm thinking in particular of a Gasol assist that looked more like he was just dropping the ball on the floor right at the instant Calathes came around the pick he was setting). Jon Leuer had a bit of a rough night, struggling through some bad matchups as the backup 4.
Other than that, pretty uneventful. The Grizzlies played hard and executed well for 30-something of the game's 48 minutes, and against the Jazz, that was enough to create an insurmountable lead. But, no matter how much I may want to accept it and move on, if these are the ten guys Joerger is going to play, I wish he would look at how he's playing them a little differently.