Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Grizzlies 110, Mavericks 96: Ten Thoughts

Posted By on Wed, Nov 25, 2015 at 7:27 AM

click to enlarge JaMychal Green, small forward? - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • JaMychal Green, small forward?

Last night the Grizzlies got a solid win against a Mavericks team that has been playing really well to start the season. The final margin of victory was good enough, but there were points in the night when the Griz were up by as much as 25 before Dallas clawed their way back into the game—and they always seem to claw their way back into the game. It was a great win for the Grizzlies, and several guys had standout performances—seven Grizzlies scored in double figures. Here are Ten Thoughts from last night's win:

Ten Thoughts

click to enlarge LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski

★ In the absence of Zach Randolph, the Grizzlies rolled with a starting lineup of Mike Conley, Tony Allen, Matt Barnes, Jeff Green, and Marc Gasol. Not the player named Green I would expect to see in that situation, but it worked, and was Barnes' first start. Without Randolph on the floor, head coach Dave Joerger has been experimenting all season long with different lineups and looks, most of which involve Jeff Green and/or JaMychal Green and the "four out" kinds of sets that today's space-loving NBA is using more and more often. One wonders what kind of effect Z-Bo's return will have on these experiments; after a similar stretch of injury time last season, Randolph returned and played his best basketball since his 2012 knee injury. Something to keep an eye on, for sure.

★ Jeff Green had a good night, for the most part. His defense is still questionable, but Green was 8 of 14 from the field (including a three that was so spot-on it barely moved the net) and had a couple of highlight-reel dunks. What was noticeable about Green, though, was the freedom he had to operate without Randolph on the floor. It seemed like he and his fellow Green JaMychal both ended up with more dunks than usual—dunks that weren't in transition, but were a result of a guy being wide open underneath the basket. Something to keep an eye on, because those kinds of easy baskets have been hard to come by in seasons past.

★ Vince Carter continues to get minutes, and do fairly well with them. Last night Carter had 3 points in 11 minutes, but he also played excellent defense against Dirk Nowitzki, and kept the ball moving. Carter played a better game than Courtney Lee, who has struggled off the bench (just like he's always struggled off the bench) and ended last night 0-5 from the field in almost 18 minutes.

★ The Grizzlies are looking much better at a time when that really matters. The Griz have a very tough schedule early, and are playing a lot of division games right now when they and everyone else are still mostly finding their sea legs for the season (except the Warriors, but the Warriors are basically from a different planet at this point). The win over Houston, the win over Dallas—sure, the Spurs game happened, but who wants to talk about that?—and they're only a game back of the #3 seed in the West already. Getting things together quickly was the best thing that could've happened to this team. Now, tonight, they face Houston again with a chance to put even more distances between themselves and the Rockets in the standings. It's good for the Grizzlies to start establishing some buffer space between themselves and the rest of the Southwest now, because the schedule only gets easier for them over the next couple of months. They needed to right the ship quickly after the bad start to the year, and to their credit, they did.

★ Mario Chalmers had 5 steals, and finished with 14 points on 7 shots. What a trade.

★ Poor Dwight Powell of the Mavericks had what SBNation called the "Missed Dunk of the Year" last night, and I have to say, in a year that's already seen Vince Carter get rim-checked with nobody guarding him (maybe that happened in preseason—but either way), Powell is the favorite for that title at this early juncture:

Woof.

★ In a weird development, the Mavericks tried intentionally fouling Tony Allen for a chance to get back into the game. Allen has been bad at the line this year so far—in addition to struggling all around, posting a negative net rating for the first time. But he's a career 72% shooter, and last night when put on the spot he hit 6 of 8. I guess the Mavs were also trying to buy themselves more possessions, but when the guy being fouled hits that many of the free throws, the tactic just doesn't make any sense, to say nothing of how annoying it is to watch.

click to enlarge LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski

★ I'm still thinking about how different this team looks with Zach Randolph out. The floor is more open, they're pushing the tempo harder, the wings have room to operate, Conley and Gasol are a little freer with their standard high pick and roll stuff... it's an interesting look, and an evolutionary step forward for the team. I still don't think it's time for the Grizzlies to trade Randolph, but it is comforting to see signs that they'd be OK without him as he starts to transition away from being The Guy on this team—which may be happening faster than anyone could've predicted.

★ People spontaneously did the wave in the Forum last night. I hate the wave. The Grizzlies started giving up chunks of their huge lead over the Mavs while the wave was happening, because they hate it too.

★ A funny thing happened in Dave Joerger's press conference after the game: he bemoaned a lack of "bigs" on the roster, saying he only has one right now (Marc Gasol) who can play, and that JaMychal Green is a small forward, and that Joerger is playing him out of position at power forward. Now, Joerger's a smart guy, so I don't for a second think he actually believes this. If anything, Green is the closest thing the Grizzlies have to a "modern" power forward, a guy who isn't a bruiser but gets rebounds and inside buckets, but can also step out all the way to the corner 3 and hit a jumper, and who can guard multiple positions. Talking about how "little" he is on a night when he had 13 points in 17 minutes seems to be missing the forest for the trees a bit.

I read this statement—baffling though it was—as what it really is: Joerger feeling the strain of injuries to Randolph and Brandan Wright, and feeling his frontcourt getting a little thin due to injuries. He lobbied hard to sign Ryan Hollins for the year, and that didn't happen, so he's probably just pushing for that again. But it is weird, to say the least, that he said so specifically and clearly that JaMychal Green is a small foward. Seems to me if he spends all his time playing power forward, he's probably a power forward. But what do I know?

LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski

Up Next

The Grizzlies are in Houston tonight for one last road SEGABABA before coming back home for the holiday and Friday's home game against Atlanta. Houston has historically been a tough place for the Griz to get a win, but after last night's near-blowout, in which nobody but Matt Barnes played more than 36 minutes, hopefully they can get another win over Houston while the Rockets are wandering in the basketball hinterlands and grab another division win while Houston is down.


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