Thursday, January 30, 2014

Road Recap: Grizzlies 99, Kings 89: A win, but not an exciting one

Posted By on Thu, Jan 30, 2014 at 9:40 AM

Courtney Lee had his quietest game as a member of the Grizzlies Wednesday night.
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • Courtney Lee had his quietest game as a member of the Grizzlies Wednesday night.

I, for one, didn't really enjoy watching last night's game for much of it—I tweeted at one point that watching the game closely felt like reading a tax document: tedious, without feeling. It looked like the Grizzlies were playing that way at first, too, with a cold shooting start reminiscent of the first quarter against Houston on Saturday night. The problem for Memphis was that Sacramento wasn't also on the second night of a back to back, and ran out to an early lead.

There were also moments when it felt like former Grizzly Rudy Gay was in the midst of having one of "those games" where he banked in threes and got to the rim at will, looking liberated (and with his usage rate way up) in the absence of DeMarcus Cousins. As the game wore on, though, the fears of a Big Rudy Gay Game disspated much the same way Gay's scoring did, and he finished the night with 23 where early it looked like he might drop 35.

For the next 36 minutes of basketball, it felt like the Grizzlies were perpetually 3 points ahead of the Kings, barely doing enough on defense to stay ahead while scoring just enough for the Kings to stay behind. The bench was mostly quiet, and it was just... nothing. Nothing really happened.

By the end of the third quarter, the Grizzlies had accrued a six point lead, and finally something clicked and the Griz—particularly Mike Conley and Tayshaun Prince (!)—went off for a thirty point quarter, sealing the ten-point victory. It was a good showing from a team that hadn't really "turned it on" yet all game, and it was good enough to get the Grizzlies headed to Minnesota with a 2-0 start to the current four-game-in-five-night stretch.

Two Things I Liked:

• Mike Conley continues to amaze and astound me with the level of his play. Against Sacramento, he displayed the same killer instinct he showed against Portland—a willingness to be the guy to hit the big shot with the game on the line, without remorse, without worrying about what anyone else is doing. A basket needed to be made, and so Mike Conley made it. That's something Conley has shown this year that has been slow to develop in him, but this season, it finally seems to have blossomed, allowing him to be the "I'll take the last shot" player that Griz-watchers have long hoped he would be. It's a welcome development, and it's a big reason the Grizzlies are where they are this season, rather than on a month-long Tank Quest kicked off by Gasol's injury.

• Tayshaun Prince made some great plays in the fourth quarter—a steal followed by a dunk in transition on Rudy Gay, and another one trailing a Mike Conley fast break, along with some solid contributions on both ends of the floor. Prince has struggled mightily this season overall, but last night he showed some flashes of "Oh yeah, he's Tayshaun Prince" that probably reminded Griz fans who weren't watching the championship-era Pistons exactly what that means. I'm not sure what the ultimate answer is to the Prince Conundrum, but for now, at least in fourth quarters against certain matchups, the answer is to play him. He certainly came up big last night.

Two Things I Didn't Like:

• Courtney Lee had his quietest game as a Grizzly so far, scoring only 4 points on 2 of 4 shooting and attempting no 3-pointers in 24 minutes. Not sure what the reasoning for that was, beyond the Grizzlies' general offensive woes translating into a lack of open shots for Lee, or a lack of opportunities to hit the pull-up shots he's been nailing with abandon as of late, but no matter the cause, his off night was either part of the reason (or part of the collateral damage) the Grizzlies' spacing on offense was less than stellar last night, overloading the strong side on offense the same way they do on defense which, well, isn't usually a good thing. With any luck it was just an off game, and Lee will bounce back in Minnesota on Friday night.

• Mike Miller was finally starting to string together some good games, playing within himself and hitting some shots (5-11 for 11 points last night, though only 1-6 from long range) and then he sprained his thumb last night towards the end of the game, and is now listed as day-to-day. It was inevitable that Miller would get hurt at some point this year; his history recently proves it would be foolish to expect him to stay completely healthy. But it's frustrating to see him get injured just as he was starting to pull out of the slump he's been in, a slump that's seen Dave Joerger play him too many minutes while his offense production has been zero or close to it. Hopefully the injury is just a blip and won't keep him out of the rotation for an extended amount of time. It'd probably also be a good idea to get Jonny Basketball out on the floor to take some threes in his absence.


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