Sunday, January 31, 2016

Grizzlies 121, Kings 117: Next Day Notes

Posted By on Sun, Jan 31, 2016 at 2:20 PM

click to enlarge LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski

The Grizzlies won their third game in a row (and the seventh out of their last eight) in a way that is unusual for them: they scored a lot of points, beating the Sacramento Kings 121-117 after fending off a spectacular defensive collapse that saw the Kings put up 40 fourth-quarter points but fail to take the Grizzlies' lead. That the Kings had a 40-point quarter and still didn't win should tell you how the first three quarters went: lopsided.

The Griz came into the game seemingly determined to push the pace against the Kings, leaking out and running the break whenever possible, and it worked. They were up 20 points at multiple points in the contest, but the Kings always started to reel them back in. Finally, despite Jeff Green's big scoring night off the bench, Dave Joerger had to go back to the starting lineup (last night's was Mike Conley, Courtney Lee, Tony Allen, Zach Randolph, and Marc Gasol) to stop the Kings' comeback attempt and seal the Grizzlies win.

You want game notes? I have game notes.

Game Notes

★ Jeff Green had his 3rd straight 20-point game off the bench, finishing with 29 on 11/16 shooting. Green's offense was a big reason the Grizzlies were able to keep the Kings at arms' length for so much of the game, and when he finally went cold in the fourth, he wasn't the only one—the entire lineup seemed to turn back into a pumpkin at once. This is the best Jeff Green for the Grizzlies, and it's been pretty apparent since his first stint as a reserve last year—which was his idea in the first place, apparently. Coming off the bench keeps him from throwing off the chemistry of the starters, lets him run more with Mario Chalmers (whose improvisatory style of play suits Green better, I think), and keeps him from messing with the team's chemistry any more than he already has.

This is the Jeff Green that the Grizzlies want and need. It's a shame that he's finding this sort of a groove when time is running out on his tenure here, whether that's before the trade deadline or after the season is over.

★ Ryan Hollins played almost 10 minutes, and JaMychal Green got a DNP-CD. In terms of minutes at the 5, I understand it: Hollins couldn't defend DeMarcus Cousins at all without fouling him, and Green trying to do the same thing would've been an abject disaster. So, for once, I understand why Joerger let Hollins soak up all of Green's rotation minutes.

The larger trend is still troubling, though. Green's better as a rangy 4, and Joerger seems to be creating a false dichotomy between playing Hollins at the backup center and playing Green at the same spot. Green is one of the few young players the Grizzlies have actually developed in the last few years, and to see him molder on the bench behind a guy who—no offense is intended by this—is just as good as any other end-of-the-bench 10-day type while JaMychal Green could be out there getting better and smarter, learning through experience... well, that's a big reason I didn't like Lionel Hollins, and it's a big problem I have with Joerger. Playing some random vet because he's "your guy" to the detriment of a young player on a great contract with more upside is wrongheaded even if it helps win one or two extra games along the way. And besides, are the Timberwolves really going to care about those two extra wins on Joerger's regular season résumé?

(That last one was mostly a joke.)

click to enlarge LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski

★ Mike Conley was not playing well at all for most of the game, passing up shots to set up Tony Allen jumpers, all while shooting 0-3 for 0 points for himself. That turned in the last 8 minutes or so of the game, when he had a really lucky long jumper go in right at the shot clock buzzer. From there, Conley was 3-3 for 8 points and was a critical part of the Grizzlies' ability to hold off the Kings and escape with the win.

In this, a contract year in which he stands to get max money, or at least something close to it, Conley's struggles have been concerning. His injury history over the last two seasons hasn't been great, and the prospect of paying that much money to a guy who is struggling to approach career averages in every category is, well, frightening at best. But I still believe Conley can be as good as he's always been. This year has been weird for everyone, and if Conley is struggling, he's still not having as bad of a year as Marc Gasol is. One hopes this stuff will work itself out by the end of the year, and the Grizzlies do the right thing with all that money, whatever it may be. I have a feeling it will be going into Mike Conley's bank account, and that's probably fine.

Tweet of the Night

Up Next

On Monday, the Grizzlies travel to New Orleans to take on the Pelicans (and probably try to get them to give up some sort of pick for Courtney Lee or Jeff Green while they're down there, just for good measure—the deadline is approaching, after all). After that, a three-day break before a back to back at New York on Friday and home against the Mavericks on Saturday.

We're almost to the All-Star Break, which last year was just long enough for guys to get a little bit lazy and out of shape, and seemed to coincide with the beginnings of the team's on-again, off-again malaise that has carried through to this season (well, until this recent stretch of games against losing teams). With any luck, the Griz can make it through the break and come back more focused instead of less focused, and we won't have to write any more posts about whether Marc Gasol is slowly losing his mind.



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