Next Day Notes: Grizzlies 97, Lakers 90

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LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski

Last night, the Grizzlies knocked off the 16–45 Los Angeles Lakers in a 97–90 win that felt like it was heading the wrong direction for most of the night. After three quarters of playing without any direction on the offensive end (and the defensive end, too, really), the Griz turned up the heat down the stretch and capitalized on the Lakers’ abysmal late-game execution to steal back a badly-needed home win.

Dave Joerger described what happened to the Griz offense early in the game during his postgame press conference: the ball got “sticky.” As we’ve seen in every other outing since the All-Star break, the Grizzlies lacked ball movement, player movement, and really any sense of motion, and as a result, the Lakers were able to sit three guys in the paint and stifle every attempt at a post entry pass. Life was difficult for the Griz bigs in the early going, and it was mostly because every trip down the floor was trying to force something in to them that wasn’t there. (When that didn’t work, the possession usually ended with an ill-considered jump shot, which were going in at a 40% rate in the first half.)

The explanation Joerger offered for why the ball wasn’t moving was that he was “messing with the rotations”: Vince Carter made his return to action last night after missing 14 games with a tendon injury in his foot. Given that the future of his season (and maybe even his career) was being questioned as he was helped off the floor when it happened, Carter’s return was a welcome sight. He didn’t contribute much and only played 6 minutes, but you can rest assured that the Griz are only worried about whether he can play well in April, not what he does right now. Jeff Green also played with the reserves quite a bit last night, at the backup power forward spot where Jon Leuer had been soaking up time as of late. If Tony Allen’s not going to start, moving Green to the frontcourt with the second unit allows him to still play “starter minutes” at the wing, which is basically the same result as starting him anyway.

The real change in momentum came with about 9 minutes left in the 4th. Ed Davis absolutely spiked home a dunk on Kosta Koufos, and then stared down/jawed at the Grizzlies bench. The Lakers were up 10 at that point, and outworking the Griz on both ends, and it felt like something similar to Tuesday night’s Utah loss was happening: the Griz were folding before the end of the game while trailing at home. Not the case though. Whether it was because Davis’ mouth got them mad (which, let’s be honest, is likely) or because Davis’ outburst made them realize they were about to lose at home to the Lakers, the Grizzlies outscored the Lakers 28–11 over the next nine minutes and despite the Lakers’ interminable intentional fouls at the end of the game walked away with a win.

Game Notes

➭ The Grizzlies’ offense still mostly looks like a pile of garbage. Guys aren’t communicating, aren’t moving the ball around, aren’t moving when they don’t have the ball, and aren’t making the right plays when they do try to move the ball. I’m not sure why that is; Joerger’s point that he’s messing with the rotations probably has something to do with it but it can’t be the whole story. One wonders whether Z-Bo’s incredible run after returning from a knee injury has everyone reverting to the “bad old days” of walking the ball up the court into an isolation play for Randolph. That doesn’t feel like the whole truth, either. Mike Conley is struggling. Marc Gasol looks less aggressive than he was to start the year. The guys who were shooting above their norms early on are now shooting below them (averages are a cruel mistress) and without a swarming defense, the Griz would be unable to outscore anybody. One hopes things will become more fluid and the execution will improve as the playoffs approach, and the Grizzlies will re-find the groove they were in to start the year.

LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski

➭ Joerger’s plan to play Jeff Green as the backup 4 with Vince Carter back into the wing rotation is an interesting way to get Tony Allen “starter minutes” without actually starting him, and it might work. One wonders whether Green’s presence in the starting unit is to blame for their offensive struggles (I don’t think it can possibly be that simple, but what do I know?), but either way, it’s clear that Tony Allen still fits in with that lineup and helps it achieve its maximum efficiency. One wonders whether Jon Leuer will ever see the floor again with Green at backup 4 and newly get-signed-for-the-year-then’d JaMychal Green on the bench as a wild card.

Hey, look! Vince Carter! - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • Hey, look! Vince Carter!

➭ Mike Conley looked terrible last night against the Lakers, even though he made some big plays down the stretch. That he was able to will himself into those plays despite having such a bad night—and getting knocked around and banged up pretty badly most of the evening—says quite a bit about his, well, fortitude. When asked in the postgame presser whether he’d consider resting Conley some down the stretch towards the playoffs, Joerger said the staff had definitely “tossed around” the idea, but that they weren’t sure which games to do it in, and which guys to rest. For what it’s worth, I’d love to see Conley rest tonight in New Orleans, and then maybe again in Boston on Wednesday night. He’s worn out, banged up, and there’s no way he’s ever going to be right if he plays every game between now and the playoffs, and if Conley’s not right by then, the Grizzlies’ chances at advancement are unquestionably diminished.

Tweet of the Night

First, I have to talk about the Grizzlies’ Media Madness BattleBallz tournament. I was annihilated defeated by Jarvis Greer in the preliminary round, but I won the consolation round against Brandon Speck and somehow ended up as the 8 seed, matched up against the 1 seed, Marcus “Doc” Holliday from Local 24.

Those of you who know me know that I am not a large guy. I ran track and cross country in high school. I weigh 150 pounds when I’ve been standing in the rain a while. Doc was a great running back for the Memphis Tigers and played for the St. Louis Rams.

You don’t need a doctorate in physics to figure out what happened next.

But enough about my brush with death—and if you don’t think Doc is going to obliterate everybody else in the tournament, I don’t know what to tell you. This picture taken by the Flyer’s Larry Kuzniewski should probably be my new driver’s license photo:

LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski

There was also this one related to actual basketball:

Up Next

Tonight, a SEGABABA in New Orleans against Anthony Davis and the Pelicans. It sounds like a ton of Grizzlies fans are driving down for this one and making a weekend of it, which is a great idea—and yet another point in the argument that the NBA should have better divisions based on regions. Grizzlies/Pelicans/Hawks would be one of the best three-way rivalries in sports.

Then, an Eastern Conference road trip against Chicago, Boston, and Washington in which the Grizzlies should rack up some wins and hopefully rest some starters in less important games. That said, the standings are pretty tight. The Griz can’t really afford to drop too many games for “rest” purposes, even though they need it badly. It’ll be interesting to see whether Joerger and the staff really do decide to rest anybody or not.


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