When Mike Conley went down, I did the math, and I did not expect the Grizzlies to win this game, but that’s exactly what they did, beating the Pelicans in New Orleans 110-108 in double overtime. It wasn’t pretty—though it certainly wasn’t as ugly as the last Griz/Pels game, which went into overtime tied at 75. But what they lacked in execution the Grizzlies made up for with sheer effort, led by some scoring outbursts from guys that you may not expect. As I said in my last recap, the way the schedule looks over the next couple of weeks, the Griz need every win they can get right now, so last night was certainly a game they needed to win.
Troy Daniels was not good in preseason, and up to this point in the regular season, he’d been something worse than bad for an NBA player: he’d been invisible. But since the team was reduced to nine players (now ten, with the injury hardship addition of Toney Douglas becoming official yesterday) Daniels has found both his shooting stroke and the confidence necessary to fire at will from beyond the arc.
Daniels had 29 points last night. Efficiency is important, but frankly, I couldn’t care less that he had to take 20 shots to get there. In the absence of Vince Carter and Zach Randolph, somebody has to score with the Grizzlies’ second unit, and Daniels has finally found his groove just in time to be that guy. Who knows what happens to the rotation when all of these guys return; it’s going to be long enough that the Grizzlies were granted a hardship, so that seems premature to even discuss at this point. But Daniels has found his rhythm at the right time, and it’s glorious to see a guy in a Grizzlies uniform who can go out there absolutely chucking everything he thinks he can get off in time and hitting fully 50% of them.
I don’t even know that I have language for what Marc Gasol has been for the Grizzlies—all season, really, but especially since Mike Conley went down injured. It took two overtimes, sure, but last night Gasol got yet another triple double, finishing with 28 points, 11 rebounds, and 11 assists in just under 46 minutes. He did all of that against Anthony Davis, who is still on track to be the best player in the league here soon, and the Pelicans’ other various bigs. Davis, in particular, has always given the Grizzlies trouble (just as he does everyone else) because of his otherworldly length, but last night Gasol didn’t seem bothered by it at all. In overtime, Gasol took it straight to Davis more than once, hitting turnaround jumpers in his face. It was great.
The three point game that Gasol has shown in just the first games of this season makes you wonder what it was that kept previous coaches from letting him shoot it. Clearly this is not something he just started shooting this summer, and every time he makes a big three at a crucial moment—he was 3 for 6 last night—a little bit of me dies, knowing he could have been drilling these in 2015 in the playoffs against the Warriors. “What if”s are never fun, especially where the Grizzlies’ long, tortured history as a franchise is concerned (being one lottery spot away from LeBron and instead giving up the pick that became Darko to Detroit, anyone?) but in hindsight it’s hard not to call Hollins and Joerger short-sighted for not being willing to develop this facet of Gasol’s game. We’ve been hearing for years now that Gasol was winning 3-point contests in practice; it’s not like they didn’t know.
The Grizzlies have home games against the Sixers (without Joel Embiid) tonight and the Portland Trail Blazers on Thursday. Both of those are winnable, though Portland is definitely not an easy out given the Grizzlies’ current condition; a win Thursday would be a pleasant surprise. After that, it starts to get ugly for the banged-up Griz. Saturday brings the Durant-ed Golden State Warriors to town, and then Tuesday and Wednesday feature a home-and-home with the reigning champion Cleveland Cavaliers. There are tough games against tough teams sprinkled with winnable home games for the rest of the month, almost all on 1 or 0 days of rest. There’s just no way the Griz will be able to win all of these in OT or 2OT.
So, not to play Prophet of Doom here, but these three wins in a row are extremely important to the Grizzlies— they needed to win at least two of these to stay in contact with the West playoffs through this injury-riddled stretch. There’s just no way they’re going to win all of them, but now the task is lighter, and as the losses inevitably start to add up over the rest of the calendar year, the Griz have put themselves in a better position to come out the other side and keep trying to climb. These are important wins, these Nasty Nine games. They are putting themselves in a better position.