Sunday, March 1, 2015

Next Day Notes: Grizzlies 101, Timberwolves 97

Posted By on Sun, Mar 1, 2015 at 9:43 AM

click to enlarge Marc Gasol got going down the stretch of the fourth quarter after struggling for the last two or three games. - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • Marc Gasol got going down the stretch of the fourth quarter after struggling for the last two or three games.

It was exactly the game that Grizzlies fans were looking for—or, at least the fourth quarter was: the Grizzlies went on the road to Minnesota, a team they’ve struggled against this season for whatever reason, and got a win on the second night of a back to back despite losing a 15-point 3rd quarter lead and having to mount a comeback.

It was almost as though the Grizzlies read what I wrote about the Clippers game, but that’s giving myself far too much credit; it was apparent to anybody who’s been watching since the All-Star break, and especially Friday night’s home stinkbomb against the Clippers, that something had to change if the Griz were going to get back on track, and that something was ball movement and player movement.

It felt like it wasn’t going to happen anyway—for the whole first half, the Grizzlies looked like they were playing like they were wearing concrete shoes (or, anyway, the starters were—getting off to yet another slow start that makes one wonder if this Conley/Lee/Green/Randolph/Gasol unit is really the one Dave Joerger should be rolling out on a nightly basis) and the magical bench unit of Beno Udrih, Nick Calathes, Tony Allen, Jon Leuer, and Kosta Koufos had to come in and inject some pace into the proceedings to combat the Timberwolves’ incredible ability to create turnovers by the other team. Last night the Grizzlies turned the ball over 24 times, which led to 30 Wolves points. Minnesota averages 20 points off TO’s per game, so last night’s number wasn’t particularly shocking in that context, but seeing the Griz rendered incapable of holding on to the basketball was a sobering experience, and had me wondering whether I was even going to watch the second half.

But I did. And that was a good thing, because otherwise I would’ve missed seeing the Grizzlies get a little bit back into the groove they’d been in before All-Star took them out of the game for ten days. When it got to crunch time and the game was still close, Marc Gasol finally started playing like the All-Star starter he is, Mike Conley started to shake off some of the terrible slump he’s been in since the end of January, and the Griz were able to score a basket on 10 of their final 11 possessions.

click to enlarge LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski

I wasn’t panicking about the rough start to the stretch run. As Matt Moore of CBSSports (and Hardwood Paroxysm) said last night, the Grizzlies are finally a good enough and “veteran” enough team to be able to coast through February and March and still be good to go in the playoffs, and that fact coupled with the longer-than-ever break means effort and intensity are going to be lacking on some nights, rightly or wrongly. Beyond that, when has this Grizzlies team—in the Modern a.k.a “Grit/Grind” era—ever been good against the bottom teams in the league? Every single year they lose to at least one of the league’s worst teams, simply by virtue of assuming they can win without doing much and letting it get away from them.

Last night was a nice win over a team that is decent-to-good and will only get better as all of the young pieces they have in place continue to develop into real NBA players. Rubio, love him or hate him, is an electrifying player despite his flaws. Andrew Wiggins is a special talent. Gorgui Dieng is rapidly evolving into a very good big man. Zach LaVine can dunk really well, I guess. But the Grizzlies needed to take care of business last night to avoid a three-game losing streak, and that’s exactly what they did, and it involved the guys we wanted to see playing well doing just that.

Hard to argue with, no matter how long it took them to get there.

Tweet of the Night

Vince Carter got caught continuing his “old man mentor” world tour with Zach LaVine:

As a side note, it is nice to see Carter wearing warmup clothes… hopefully that means he’s actually able to do some sort of physical activity. If he can return (and actually be a contributor, something he hasn’t been able to do consistently all season long) the Grizzlies’ bench will get even better than it currently is (though one would hate to see him disrupt the Udrih/Calathes two-headed beast or knock Tony Allen out of that ball-hounding lineup, so one wonders where he’d fit).


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