On a Monday night rivalry game, your Memphis Grizzlies fought a long, (kinda) Grind it Out battle against the LA Clippers. The story of the game was Tony Allen’s ejection in the first quarter after a (probably) unintentional, and decidedly hilarious, karate kick to Chris Paul’s face. I mean, seriously, this is awesome:
However, awesome or not, the Grizzlies were left to fight the rest of the game, against probably their biggest rival, without the Grindfather. Fear not, though, because fight they did, and they ended up with a great 106-102 victory against the high-octane Clippers, a major contender in the Western Conference.
(Note: Allen did apologize about the kick on twitter after the game.)
This was a genuinely good win. It felt really, really good. Tonight, the Grizzlies looked the way that I expected them to when I said that they could be legitimate contenders for the title this season. That prediction looks farfetched now, but they played up to that standard tonight, and whether or not they can maintain it (spoiler alert: probably not; Z-Bo is stupid hot and will cool down, and otherwise they made a lot of the same boneheaded errors as ever) it was beautiful to watch for one game.
Zach Randolph absolutely dominated once again, with 26 points on 10-16 (62.5%) shooting and a monstrous 15 rebounds. Marc Gasol looked much more like his usual self with 23 points, 8 assists, and 9 rebounds on 8-22 (36.4%) shooting. Gasol has looked far more aggressive of late, as many people have pointed out that he seems to be really demanding the ball more often on offense. Blake Griffin led the Clippers with 23 points and 11 rebounds, and Chris Paul was one rebound away from a triple double, with 18, 11, and 9.
The Grizzlies got their lead in the first quarter and really never looked back (though the game was back and forth the entire way) behind Z-Bo’s blazing 13 point first quarter. The Grizzlies ended the first quarter up 29-20, as none of the Clippers were enough to stop Z-Bo, and the Grizzlies held the Clips to only 31% shooting from the floor.
The rest of the game was about maintaining that lead. Kosta Koufos, in particular, was a huge asset for the Grizzlies when it came to protecting the lead, as he came in and led bench units with enough defensive rigor and his impeccable positioning to keep the lead while Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph got time to rest — usually a disastrous period of time for the Grizz. In 18 minutes off the bench, Koufos had 10 points, 9 rebounds, 2 assists, and 4 blocks (plus a clutch deflection of a lob attempt), and was a general boon to MEM, and to my fantasy basketball team. He was as effective off the bench as I had dreamed he might be, one day.
The fourth quarter went right down to the wire, but the Clippers never pulled within 3 in the last few minutes of the game. It seemed at a couple points that the Grizzlies were losing control, but a few Marc Gasol free throws later, and they were back with a more comfortable lead.
While this game was high paced, and it featured some of high-octane passing around the perimeter that the Grizzlies could utilize more of, now (they were 5-12 from 3), it was really the definition of a grind-it-out game.
Random Notes and Takeaways
- It’s also probably worth noting that we shouldn’t get too excited too quickly about this win: the Clippers are not particularly well poised to beat the Grizzlies, and haven’t been for years now. Teams that any semblance of a defense can grind the Grizz to a halt, no matter how impressive the Grizzlies’ defense is on the other end. The Clippers do not have a defense, and thus, they get stopped without being able to stop Memphis. This win is exciting in the sense that the Grizzlies were finally actually playing the defense they’re known for — and Marc finally looked like himself on that end, THANK GOD — but it’s not like they kicked into a “contender status” gear that we haven’t seen before. It’s nice, but don’t get carried away.
- And, regarding Marc, MAN it was nice to see him look like himself, on both ends of the court. He wasn’t boxing out like we’re used to seeing (DAJ had 15 rebounds), but he’s never been able to do much on the boards given Jordan’s athleticism, if Jordan is as motivated as he was tonight. But Gasol was doing infinitely better at shutting off all lines of access to the rim, and it was a thing of beauty. I hope he keeps it up.
- It’s wonderful to see Randolph taking over games, but he’s going to cool down eventually, and it’s hard to know how much that’s going to hurt the Grizzlies. They haven’t been playing for long enough this season to know how much he’s gonna cool down (will be slightly better than last season? Slightly worse? About the same?) but he’s not going to be shooting 60% plus for the rest of the season. I’m a little worried that that will hurt the in-and-out offensive game that the Grizzlies have running right now. What happens with Randolph isn’t drawing immediate double teams?
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