Grizzlies win in a game with a ton of subplots

Published: December 8, 2012

For a game I didn’t expect to hold a lot of significance, this game had a lot of fascinating subplots.

The first five Hornets possessions were outright brutal.  Vasquez Turnover, Vasquez Turnover, Vasquez Tied up for a Jumpball, Vasquez Turnover, Open Court block by Rudy Gay on Xavier Henry.  On the second possession the Hornets had the ball for 20 seconds and got the ball exactly one step past the three point line before throwing it away.  Like the opening of the Thunder Game, I just knew we were going to lose from that moment.

I ended up being right, but Monty wasn’t kidding around this time, and he started making moves and pushing buttons.  In fact, he actually had started pushing buttons before the game even started, for the Hornets opened the game with Xavier Henry at small forward and Al-Farouq Aminu on the bench.  Aminu didn’t get a minute of action, and the broadcast team reported that Al-Farouq had been pulled for bad defense.  Two things came of this.

  • Henry got some extended run and played fairly well offensively.
  • Despite some hot shooting by the Grizzlies(Pondexter), the Hornets did cut down on the number of open threes and their perimeter defense was better.

Clearly, the message was received, because everyone was working harder on the perimeter.  Henry worked, and helped there.  Where he didn’t help was trying to stop Rudy Gay in the post, who faced up and went to work.  Normally, I’d be happy with that result, but tonight Gay was attacking and getting contact.  Unusual for him, and it paid off for the Grizzlies, who struggled mightily when they weren’t turning  over Vasquez and Robin Lopez.

Vasquez and Lopez, in fact, were the other two players to feel the minute hammer tonight.   Though Vasquez once again put on a passing display, his inability to handle pressure from Conley got him a quick pull, particularly because Austin Rivers and Brian Roberts were working so well together.  Those two guys, who had gone 0-11 in the previous game, put up 30 points on 23 shots, dished 6 assists, played with energy and only had two turnovers.  For a stretch, Rivers was running the point, and the two seemed to be working well as they definitely gave each other outlets when the Grizzlies punishing perimeter defense was too tight.(something Mason was not really doing for Vasquez to start the game)

Lopez got the hammer when his shot wasn’t falling and his help defense was ineffectual.  He did a great job pushing Marc Gasol way out of the paint, but other than that, he was missing shots and getting stripped by Conley as the diminutive guard ran buy guarding a cutter.  The result was Monty playing Jason Smith big minutes.  And they were BIG minutes.  Smith had five dunks and five blocks, ran the floor like a deer and fought like crazy.  He was clearly exhausted as the game was winding down, but I still shouted “NO MONTY!” at the TV when I saw Robin Lopez waiting to come into the game for him with three minutes to play.

Sigh.  Lopez turnover.  Can’t have everything.

In the end, the Grizz had just enough long range shooting, 18 fast break points to the Hornets’ 6, and they pulled out the win.

Other Observations

  • Ryan Anderson’s game will look subpar in the box score.  15 points, 2 rebounds.  I’ll tell you right now, he was vital in that game.  He battled the bigger, heavier Zach Randolph ferociously all game.  The guy is tough, and despite getting different looks – Gay, Arthur and Randolph all took turns guarding him – still managed to get off a nice set of shots.   He did miss the big bodies of Lopez and Vasquez out there though.  The down screens those two guys set are pretty fantastic.
  • Xavier was aggressive and didn’t hesitate on his shots.  He’s getting his chance, and he took a little step in seizing it tonight.  Keep going, X.  This is your opportunity.
  • Darius Miller had a game like Anderson’s.  You’ll look in the box score and see 1 rebound, 3 assists, 4 points on three shots in 27 minutes.  Miller played a smart game, though.  His defense was sound, his passing was great, he only made on play all game I rolled my eyes at.  Good minutes for the rookie.
  • Austin Rivers is doing exactly what he needs to with that floater – which is one of the toughest shots in the game to master.  I’m feeling good about his chances to do so – though that could just be because I saw him hit it five times tonight and I’m like Dori from Finding Nemo.
  • Four guys off the bench got more minutes than any starter but Ryan Anderson.  I hope Monty keeps doing that.

Heat are tomorrow!  Here’s hoping for another good game.



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