The Grizzlies continued their southern road trip through the Eastern Conference with a Sunday afternoon matchup against the Hawks at Philips Arena in Atlanta. The result was a 90 – 82 win for the Grizz, not that that matters.
In this game, whenever Memphis had more than a couple of starters on the floor together, they were able to build or extend a lead. When they were experimenting with various and interesting lineup combinations, the lead would sometimes dwindle.
No Mike Conley for this game, so Jerryd Bayless draws the assignment as the starting point guard. Still no sign of Tayshaun, and Mike Miller once again starts at the three rather than Quincy Pondexter. Joining them in the starting lineup were Tony Allen, Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol.
With this starting group, the team played fairly well on both ends of the floor. Bayless did a better job running the offense, able to face the basket and see the floor. This was in contrast to Friday night’s game in Orlando, when Bayless constantly had his back to the basket outside the arc in order to protect the ball, thus limiting his ability to see the court.
But, when Bayless scores more points than Marc, Zach, and Miller combined, whose offense is being facilitated here? With all five starters logging between 22 and 24 minutes apiece, Bayless had 22 points, while the rest of the starters combined for 27. In fairness, Bayless could have racked up many more assists if the other starters would have made their shots. Zach Randolph went 1 for 4, Miller 1 for 5. Tony Allen went 3 for 11. Marc was 4 for 10. All this while Bayless was hitting 8 of 9 from the floor.
While Bayless played well as the starter, Nick Calathes also excelled in the role of backup point guard, intensifying the intrigue about who should be Mike Conley’s primary backup. Bayless is the better scorer, and filled it up from both guard positions, including while playing off the ball with Calathes at the point. Bayless has no conscience about putting up a three pointer, and he was definitely hitting them the against the Hawks, going 6 for 6 from beyond the arc.
The faster pace on offense was evident, especially early. The Grizzlies often scored, or got their first attempt, with well over 10 seconds remaining on the shot clock.
There are some new wrinkles in the offense as well. On one possession in the first quarter, we saw a double high post set, with Marc and Zach at the elbows on each side of the lane. This left the middle unclogged and wide open. Bayless looked at Marc, but fired a crisp pass to ZBo, who spun and drove the lane, drew the foul and made both free throws. Sweet.
Team defense is starting to make its presence felt. And, whatever Tony Allen lacks on offense, he more than makes up for on the defensive end.
In the half-court offense, Tony is still spotting up for the corner three. But, it must get lonely out there without a defender within 10 feet. Unlike when Mike Miller spots up on the opposite side of the floor, where he usually had Kyle Korver or another defender chin to chin with him, denying him the ball. And Tony is still missing a lot of shots from close range.
On defense, he was wreaking his usual havoc getting deflections and steals leading to fast break opportunities. In transition, he made better decisions and played more under control. When he got to the rim, he dunked with authority as opposed to missing a layup… and the putback. Better.
Back For Seconds
Still no Kosta Koufos, out with the leg injury. Jon Leuer played backup center, and Ed Davis at power forward. They would often enter and exit the game together, or within a minute of each other. So, they spent a lot of time on the floor together.
Jon Leuer showed a lot of versatility. He played the high post very well. Good passer and playmaker, with an obviously high basketball IQ and working knowledge of the offense. He shot 3 of 6 from the field, with all but one shot attempt coming in the high post. He pulled down 6 rebounds and played decent defense, but picked up 5 fouls in 16 minutes of play. He also brought the ball upcourt a couple of times and initiated the offense, ala Tayshaun Prince from last season.
Ed Davis also played an excellent all-around game, finishing 7 of 11 for 14 points to go along with 8 rebounds and a couple of blocks. One of those blocks was a two-handed stuffing of Jared Cunningham at the rim that almost resulting in Davis coming away with the ball. But, it was called a jump ball. On the jump, Cunningham didn’t reach as high as Ed’s elbow.
It was an off game for Mike Miller, who played way too many minutes in Orlando on Friday night. And a lackluster showing from Quincy Pondexter for the second game in a row. He played with no energy and went scoreless in 18 minutes, missing both of his shot attempts.
Not to be lost in this Sunday afternoon tuneup, right across the street from an NFL game at the Georgia Dome, there was one shining light. One ember beginning to glow… getting some burn… Jamaal Franklin.
Franklin entered the game late in the first, coming in for Tony Allen. He played within himself, grabbing 3 rebounds, but missing his only shot attempt of the quarter. Yet, doing the little stuff that doesn’t show up in the box score, like pulling in some rebounds and securing the ball for the Grizz on a Nick Calathes / Jeff Teague jump ball.
He entered the game again with a little over three minutes left in the third quarter and immediately grabbed a steal and started a fast break, getting the ball to Calathes at the rim, but Nick missed the shot.
Franklin stayed in the game for the start of the fourth quarter and nailed his first three pointer. On the next Grizzlies possession, he draws a shooting foul from Kyle Korver while attempting a three, and hits 2 of 3 free throws.
More impressive than that was Jamaal Franklin’s transition defense. He would run hard and deny the ball to the lead outlet man, all the while pointing and yelling to get another Grizzly defender to switch and cover his man. Looks like Jamaal has been observing Marc Gasol quarterbacking the defense.
In the end, Franklin played 20 minutes, went 2 for 4 from 3 point range, 4 for 5 from the charity stripe, picked up 6 rebounds, a couple of steals and was +9 for the game. Looked like an NBA player. Intangibles. Doing the little stuff. Impressive.
Oh, and several members of his family live in Atlanta and were able to witness Jamaal Franklin’s breakout game firsthand. His Uncle Fred (Phillips), Aunt Veronica, and young Cousin Jeremiah were sitting right behind us. (see my family photo above) We became a waaay obvious Jamaal Franklin fanclub in a half-empty arena.
By the way, Jamaal says he actually wanted jersey number 21, but that Tayshaun already had that one. He settled for 22, but says he has been a Rudy Gay fan since he was a little kid trying to pattern his game after Rudy.
I also had a conversation with John Hollinger behind the Grizzlies bench during halftime. I will write up a few juicy tidbits that came out of that talk a little later.