This three-pointer is going to be a little different as the time between Saturday night's loss to the Bucks and this afternoon I was too busy with family stuff and Flyer deadlines to do any blogging, so instead I'll look back at the two games from this past weekend and look ahead to the game tonight. Briefly:
1. Grizzlies 102, 76ers 97: This was the best game of the season so far for the Grizzlies and the first road win, but what was most memorable about it is that it may be the best game Rudy Gay's ever played. Gay scored 33 points on 14-22 shooting, which is not surprising. What is surprising is that despite this scoring eruption, Gay's most memorable moments were generally not the points he generated: Aside from his clutch jumper to seal the game late, Gay's highlights were an explosive block at the rim on a Lou Williams drive, tracking down an overthrown outlet and whipping a behind-the-back bounce pass to set up an O.J. Mayo lay-up, and, most impressively, hustling back after a Grizzlies turnover to stop a Sixers' break with a steal. These kinds of plays aren't exactly unprecedented for Gay, but we rarely see him string them together. And while he was lighting up the scoreboard, his man wasn't, as the Sixers wings did little damage.
This game is a standout, but it's more meaningful as part of a recent pattern of better effort, better focus, and more diversity from Gay, who has notched double-digit rebounds in each of his past two games and whose 13 assists over his past four games are one more than he had in the previous nine games. Is he still forcing some tough, mid-range jump shots? Yes. But though Gay's game still needs fewer of those generally low-percentage looks, he's also making quite a few of them. Making tough shots is something elite scorers do, and Gay may well have it in him to earn that designation.
2. Bucks 103, Grizzlies 98: The Grizzlies' three-game winning streak came to an end with this disappointing but not demoralizing loss Saturday. This was essentially a strategic loss for the Grizzlies, who exploited a superior inside game in the first quarter to build a double-digit lead. In the quarter, Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol combined for 16 points on 8-9 shooting. Over the next three quarters, as the lead slowly slipped away, they combined for 16 points on 5-8 shooting, including a total of three shot attempts (one field-goal and two drawn fouls) in the fourth quarter.
Lionel Hollins credited Milwaukee for taking away the Grizzlies inside game, but I'd argue the Grizzlies deserve more of the "credit" in this regard — the perimeter players for devolving into one-on-one play under duress and the coaches for not getting the game under control and dictating more interior feeds. This goes along with a generally reactive game from the Grizzlies: Despite playing at home in the midst of a three-game winning streak and facing a Bucks' team without two key veterans (Michael Redd and Andrew Bogut), the Grizzlies let their opponents control the game and went small to match-up with the Bucks, playing into Milwaukee's strengths.
And even in going small, the Grizzlies' rotations were curious: Despite having severe point guard problems all season, the Grizzlies went to a two point guard set, playing Mike Conley and Marcus Williams against the Bucks superior tandem of Brandon Jennings and Luke Ridnour. With Williams having a terrible game on both ends and the team getting burned by Bucks wing shooter Charlie Bell, why not play the normal backcourt (Conley and O.J. Mayo) with Sam Young (having an excellent game in limited minutes) at the "three", putting a stronger and longer defender on Bell to better contest those corner threes and having a better all-around offensive team on the floor?
3. Grizzlies-Kings tonight: Tonight's game is notable for the return of Tyreke Evans to FedExForum. The former Tiger is having an excellent rookie season (18-5-5 averages) and probably should have been the team's pick in this summer's draft. (He was most definitely under consideration.) But it's also a good opportunity to get back on the winning track. The Grizzlies were one poorly defended backdoor cut away from beating the Kings in Sacramento earlier in the season and should be a favorite tonight with the Kings having lost three in a row after their 5-4 start. These losses have been to pretty decent teams, but the Grizzlies are better than they were in the first meeting and should be well-positioned to take this one tonight. I'll be there and will be tweeting from courtside and following up with a post-game report.