Postgame Notebook: Grizzlies 104, Heat 86 — The Wayne Ellington Game



Man of the Match: Reserve shooter Wayne Ellington
The Lead: How good are the Griz? That's a question the entire National Basketball Association will be asking tomorrow. The Grizzlies led from buzzer to buzzer — by 27 when Lionel Hollins emptied his bench with 3:30 left to play — in dispatching the defending NBA champions in front of the season's first sellout crowd.

The win moved the Grizzlies to 5-1, the second-best record and best point differential (+9.0) in the Western Conference. All those “power rankings” columns tomorrow morning should be a fun read for Grizzlies fans.

The Heat were showing signs of making a run in the fourth quarter, cutting what had been a 16-point Grizzlies lead early in the second half down to single digits when the Sequence of the Game ended their momentum: Jerryd Bayless streaked downcourt in transition to block a Ray Allen dunk attempt at the rim. Six seconds later, Rudy Gay, who corralled the rebound, sent a long pass to Wayne Ellington, who drained his sixth three-pointer of the night. The Heat called a timeout, the Gap Band blasted out of the arena speakers, and the game was never again in doubt.

This game promised to be a fascinating battle of radically different styles — the league's fastest-flying, floor-spacing-est small-ball team versus one of the league's biggest, baddest, most traditionally post-oriented attacks.

But that's not what we got. With Heat bigs successfully fronting Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph, the Grizzlies could never get their inside game going consistently. Randolph again had a double-double (18 and 12) and Gasol got the team's high-low action going enough to notch 6 assists, but overall Griz bigs managed only 24 points on 10-28 shooting.

And the Heat didn't go to their version of “small ball” — three guards, with Lebron James at “power forward” — until the fourth quarter, where they threatened to make a run until Bayless and Ellington shut the door.

The Grizzlies were bested in this one on points in the paint (42-40), offensive rebounding (15-11), and turnover differential (+1). Instead, the Grizzlies won with — get this — jumpers. Lots of long-range jumpers. Fourteen three-pointers to Miami's 4. And bench scoring. Forty-two bench points to Miami's 26. Not what “Grizzlies basketball” typically looks like.

So maybe this one isn't repeatable — if this ends up being a “Finals preview,” the games are unlikely to look like this. But maybe, even if just a little bit, we're seeing a change in what “Grizzlies basketball” means.

Sequence of the Night (thanks to @firstresponses for pointing out the link):

Man of the Match: The main reason for those eye-popping shooting and bench scoring numbers was Wayne Ellington, who entered the game in the final seconds of the first quarter then scored 16 points, including 4-6 from beyond the arc, in the second quarter, and then kept it up in the second half, finishing with a game-high and career-high 25 points on 8-13, including 7-11 from three-point range.

When I was critical of the Grizzlies acquiring Ellington this summer, it wasn't because I didn't think he was a good shooter. It was because he'd never made particularly good use of his shooting skill. One game — Ellington played 189 over his first three seasons — doesn't change that. Ellington's 7 three-point makes in this game is a career high (previously: 5), so are the 11 attempts (previous: only 7).

Asked if this is what he expected when the team added Ellington, Lionel Hollins smiled. “Not quite that,” Hollins said, “but I'll take the bonus.”

But even if Ellington's shooting percentage has been disappointing before tonight (33% from three coming into the game), his attempt rate has been up over his career norm and his defensive effort has been good regardless, and tonight was the payoff.

As to why he's finding looks more frequently with the Grizzlies than he ever did with the Wolves, Ellington credited the team's inside game for drawing attention from perimeter defenders and his coach for boosting his confidence.

“A new coach that has faith in me,” Ellington said, underscoring one of the differences this season. “So I was excited about being here.”

Ellington's performance tonight earns this, because slam dunks are tough, but when a 35-footer comes raining out of the sky, it'll wire you up:

Nightly Number: Ellington wasn't alone in the three-point barrage that sunk the Heat. The Grizzlies would have out-shot the Heat from deep even without Ellington. Also contributing to the team's 14-24 three-point shooting — a nice week in recent seasons — were Mike Conley (3-6), Rudy Gay (2-3), Jerryd Bayless (1-1), and Quincy Pondexter (1-2). I asserted in the preseason that the Grizzlies would improve overall as a three-point shooting team despite losing O.J. Mayo because of better shooting depth. I was feeling good about that prediction even before this outburst.

The Match-Up: If you'd told the Grizzlies before the game that Rudy Gay vs. Lebron James would be close to a draw, they surely would have taken it. Matched up with the planet's best basketball player for most of the game, Gay more than held his own: 21 points on 17 field-goal attempts to James' 20 on 19. Eight rebounds to James' 10. Five assists to James' 6. Six “stocks” (steals + blocks) to James' 3.

This is the kind of stat-sheet stuffing of which Gay is capable, but hasn't been on display as frequently as many would like. “That's what his talent says he should do,” Hollins said of Gay's performance.

After struggling with his shot (2-8 in the first half) early on — a season-long issue masked by the winning — Gay finished strong: He began a decisive 22-2 Grizzlies run in four-and-a-half minutes in the middle of the final quarter with a steal that set up a Zach Randolph three-point play. He capped it with his own three-point play to push the lead to 104-77. In-between, he grabbed four rebounds, hit a step-back jumper and did this:

Elements of Style: The Grizzlies have grown too accustomed over the years to bandwagon fans in opposing apparel when the glamor teams come to town. But this time, the newbie Heat fans were overwhelmed, reduced to a silent smattering. And they were ceremoniously dispatched in the final minutes, when the Grizzlies scoreboard screen showed Heat “fans” making an early exit.

The Jacob Riis Report: This was a great night for the Grizzlies, but I feel like just tossing it out as far as evaluating the Heat. Dwyane Wade scored only 8 points on 3-15 shooting, and while the Grizzlies have made a habit of late of shutting down opposing two guards (Quincy Pondexter and Wayne Ellington giving Tony Allen some quality help in this regard), Wade was coming off an illness. The Heat may have over-reacted to the Grizzlies' inside game by not trying to fully exploit their (theoretical) speed-and-shooting advantage until the fourth quarter.

Tweet O’ the Game: I'm not talking about Wayne Ellington because it's like the ghost in Mario Bros. If you look at it, he'll disappear. — @HPBasketball

Arena Action:

Pre-game scenes:

Zach Randolph and Lil Country exchanging dap courtside, wearing matching star-spangled headbands.

Rick Trotter doing double-duty in the mic-rocking realm, singing the anthem and then calling the game as public-address announcer. (And finding time to taunt phony Heat fans on Twitter at the same time.)

All-time Griz favorite Mike Miller greeting media and game staff courtside just before tipoff with a big smile and a “Hey fellas, how ya doing?”

Where They Stand: The Griz extend their winning streak to 5, moving to 5-1 on the season for the best start in franchise history. They stand a half game behind the 6-1 San Antonio Spurs in the West.

Looking Ahead: After facing one reigning NBA finalist today, the Grizzlies hit the road to face the other, traveling to Oklahoma City to play the Thunder on Wednesday.

Announced Attendance: 18,119, the first sellout of the season.


Lebron James on the Grizzlies, post-game (per Chris Tomasson): "Rudy Gay, I don't like to say this because he's so talented but he's like their 3rd option They got a really damn good team.”

The franchise-record regular-season home winning streak moved to 14.

Zach Randolph notched his sixth-straight double-double.

Jerryd Bayless extended his streak of making a three-pointer in every game this season.

Quietly having a terrific game amid all the fireworks: Mike Conley, who scored 18 points on 7-11 shooting (3-6 from long range) and had 9 assists.


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