Sunday, October 29, 2017

Grizzlies 103, Rockets 89: Five Thoughts

Posted By on Sun, Oct 29, 2017 at 7:50 AM

click to enlarge LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski

The Grizzlies pulled off a big win over division rivals the Houston Rockets last night at FedExForum, 103–89, and the final score is actually closer than the game felt by the end. The 5–1 Grizzlies now have two wins over Houston already. Houston, without Chris Paul and Eric Gordon, was unable to keep up with the Grizzlies’ second unit on either end of the floor, which is the story of the young season for Memphis so far.

The Griz are lucky the bench had a big night, because wasn’t a pretty game for the starting unit. But more about that later. Here are five thoughts about what happened last night and What It All Means:

Chandler Parsons had himself a game. For the first time in a Grizzlies uniform, Chandler Parsons looked like the platonic 2014–15 ideal of Chandler Parsons. In 18 minutes, Parsons scored 24 points on 9–11 shooting, including 6 of 8 from 3. Most of that came in even less time than that. Not shown in the box score is the time he drove the lane on Ryan Anderson and dunked, which I think we can all agree is something that seemed unlikely (if not impossible). After the game, Mike Conley said the last time he saw Parsons play that well was when Parsons played for Houston and dropped “about 10 3’s” on the Grizzlies, and Parsons referenced the same game in his postgame interview. At any rate, it’s been a long time since Parsons has been that player, and it was wonderful to see it happen last night.

I had no expectations for Parsons this year. I thought it was possible that me might not be able to play at all, and so did people inside the organization. But all year long he’s been solid defensively, and as he’s gotten more comfortable in the flow of the game, his shot has returned to him as well. Even if he never has this sort of outburst again, the fact that he’s able to be a key contributor to a very good second unit is a positive outcome for everyone involved, and makes for a much happier vibe around the season. Good for Chandler Parsons. Maybe his Instagram manners will come around next.

click to enlarge LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski

The Grizzlies’ depth is their strength. The Grizzlies beat the Rockets by 14 points, led by as many as 19, and didn’t have a single starter score 10 or more points. The leading scorer among starters was actually Jarell Martin who finished with 9. Counting the basket made by Deyonta Davis after the game was in garbage time, the Griz bench was responsible for 67 points last night, compared to the Rockets’ bench’s 25. The Grizzlies are crushing people without any starters on the floor this season. It’s been the story all along. But last night it was even more important, with the injury-hobbled starting lineup failing to get anything done.

After the game, coach David Fizdale had some interesting things to say about how he’s approached the bench. With the injuries to JaMychal Green, Wayne Selden, and Ben McLemore, the starting lineup is sure to change as guys come back, so Fizdale has focused on keeping his second unit—Mario Chalmers, Tyreke Evans, Dillon Brooks, Chandler Parsons, and Brandan Wright—as cohesive as possible while letting the starters carry the weight of the missing players.

That explains why Andrew Harrison and Jarell Martin are still starting, especially Harrison, who has struggled mightily and played his worst game so far last night. Green is sure to return in Martin’s spot, and one assumes either Selden or McLemore will start in Harrison’s spot, whichever is healthy first. But if the bench unit is staying together, including sensational rookie Dillon Brooks, either Selden or McLemore may find himself on the outside looking in once they’re all back. It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out as guys return.

Dillon Brooks is smooth. That’s all I have for this one. Brooks had 6 points and went 2–7 from the field, and even in an “off” night I was impressed by his poise on the court. He guarded James Harden some. But his pull-up 3 in transition showed an ease with the NBA game that the Grizzlies haven’t seen in a young guy in years.

click to enlarge LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski

Mike Conley’s struggles are not getting better. Conley was flat-out bad last night. Marc Gasol was off, too, but he’s had enough MVP-like games that he gets a pass. Conley, on the other hand, struggled for all four quarters last night, unable to turn it on for the final frame like he has in other big games this year.

When I asked Fizdale about it postgame, he pointed out that defenses are keying in on Conley even more than in the past, and it’s taken some time to get used to it. He also pointed out that he’s not worried—that he knows Conley’s game will come around when it comes around. Last night the Grizzlies were able to see their way to a blowout without Captain Clutch, but one wonders how many more big wins they’re likely to get with Conley and Gasol both in single digits.

Tyreke needs to facilitate more instead of looking guys off. Yeah, right. But he did miss white-hot Parsons wide often for three, more than once.

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Tweet of the Night

Up Next

Monday night, the Grizzlies take on the Charlotte Hornets at home, and then Wednesday night the home stand wraps up against the Orlando Magic. Given the Grizzlies’ track record against East teams, especially mediocre-to-bad ones, it’s anybody’s guess how these next two play out (although the Magic are currently on top of the East standings, so I suppose anything is possible). After that, it’s a weekend in LA, which we’ll talk about more later in the week. For now, the Grizzlies are back on top of the West standings, and anyone who says they saw this start coming is probably full of it.


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