by Kevin Lipe
The Grizzlies were able to prevent human wrecking ball Russell Westbrook from breaking the record for most triple-doubles in a season, but only by one rebound. Westbrook finished with 45 points, 10 assists, and 9 rebounds in a game that seemed out of hand in the third quarter (when the Grizzlies were trailing by 10, their largest defecit of the night) but ended up coming down to the wire.
Here are some scattered thoughts on last night's game, which pretty much locked the Grizzlies into a 7th seed and a likely first-round series against the San Antonio Spurs.
★ Wayne Selden deserves the look he's getting. I was not convinced Selden was the answer to any of the Grizzlies' problems, though he made an impression in training camp and preseason. I still don't expect him to be a big difference-maker in a playoff game. But I will say this: he's starting to look like an NBA player, and has already become a better defender than Toney Douglas. If you're looking for a 14th or 15th guy to carry into the playoffs, you could do worse than Selden.
★ Zach Randolph is ready. Z-Bo played very well last night, esecially in the second half. In the postgame, Fizdale said he was trying to wait until the 4-minute mark to put Randolph back in the game, but that he checked himself in with 4:30 to go and said "Can't wait, coach" as he walked past Fizdale on the way to the scorer's table. He was right. His scoring down the stretch was Vintage Z-Bo, and kept the Grizzlies in the game until the last minute when Westbrook dropped some bombs of his own. Randolph continues to make his case for Sixth Man of the Year, and continues to prove that coming off the bench, he's got years left to play.
★ We haven't talked enough about Tony Allen's rebounding this year. Allen finished last night with 7 rebounds, continuing his elevated rebound rate for the season. He may still struggle to finish around the rim, and he definitely shouldn't be the backup point guard, but Allen's rebounding has allowed him to remain relevant on offense even as he's struggling a little bit in other areas. His 70% shooting night last night certainly didn't hurt, either, but it's the offensive rebounding—the ability to create more possessions for a team that's starving for them—that is the most impressive new wrinkle in Allen's game.
★ The Grizzlies need Mike Conley right. We've seen how the playoffs go with no Conley (2016) and a 50% Conley with a broken face (2015) and with a hobbled Gasol (2014). You have to go back to the Conference Finals year, 2013, to find a postseason where neither guy was coming into the postseason with some sort of long-term malady. Gasol's foot seems to be fine—he said last night that it's a little weak from the lack of activity but not sore—so... with any luck at all, this may be a stronger Grizzlies team heading into the "real" basketball than we've seen in the past.
Three games are left, all at home: the Knicks, the Pistons, and the Mavericks. I can't imagine that all of the important players will play in all of these games, but at the same time, the Griz are still searching for their rhythm lately, so we may see them rest less than expected (especially since Gasol and Conley have both missed time recently). I think we'll see them try some weird lineups to see what works, while perfecting the rough edges they're still showing execution-wise.