The Memphis Grizzlies have been preaching patience to the fans since the start of the season and based on the four-game win streak that was snapped Friday night, it looks like the patience is paying off. Coming into the season there was talk about a different type of offense, more up-tempo, but the first few games where not what fans expected. The slow starts to games, the lack of defense at times, and the non-existent up-tempo led to a 3-5 start.
Then came the West Coast swing: four games in six nights, starting in Los Angeles against the Lakers, then to Sacramento followed by a back-to-back against the Clippers and finally, in Golden State. Only two teams had swept the swing before, the 1988 Nuggets and 1995 Spurs, so it was quite surprising that the 3-5 Grizzlies swept it. Memphis got back to the grind that helped them be so successful last year, holding the Warriors to 81 points and 44 percent shooting. Furthermore, Memphis won the game by only scoring 88 points while shooting a terrible 39 percent from the field.
Now I know the Spurs game was a loss at home, however, with the Grizzlies losing 11 of 12 to the Spurs over the last two years, including the playoffs, it is not worth analyzing this loss. The hope is that the Grizzlies can somehow avoid the Spurs in the playoffs.
Prince vs. Pondexter
At the beginning of the season I said it would make sense for Quincy Pondexter to start over Tayshaun Prince, but I have to say it looks like coach David Joerger knows more than a man who has only coached third graders for a year. Yes, Prince’s numbers have not set the league on fire, but he has been consistent each and every game on both ends of the floor. Prince is averaging 6.5 points, 3.3 rebounds and two assists per game, again not great numbers, but his plus minus is third on the team at 2.8. Now looking at Pondexter’s numbers, they are not that much less than Prince’s at 4.8 points, two rebounds and 1.2 assists per game, but his plus minus is worst on the team at minus-7.5. I know plus/minus is not the greatest stat, however, with a difference that big no wonder Joerger has kept Prince in the game so often and it has paid off like it did late in the Warriors game. Prince scored four big points in overtime, both shots were hit with the shot clock running down and it sealed the game for the Grizzlies in a hard fought game. It is still early and Pondexter is a 36 percent career 3-point shooter, therefore, Pondexter will have his chance to win some minutes with this play. However, I am glad I was wrong about Prince and he is a big part of the Grizzlies success moving forward.
High Kicking Penalty
So with less than two minutes in the first quarter of the Clippers game Chris Paul was driving the lane and as Paul hesitated with Jamal Crawford in the corner open for 3, Tony Allen jumped up ready to stop the pass he thought was coming and stuck his foot out to deflect the pass. However, the pass never came and Paul drove the lane and Allen’s foot hit Paul right in the chops. It looked worse than it really was, but as you watch the replay you can see it looked like a clothesline with his leg more than anything. I can understand the ejection during the game; however, I did not believe that Allen deserved to be suspended for a game. With Allen being ejected in the first quarter of the Clippers game it was like he was suspended for that game and the Warriors game as well. More than likely Allen’s reputation pushed the NBA to suspend Allen for the one game, he is known for his hard play. Paul did say that he thought that Allen did not do it on purpose, but this is just one more incident that adds to the Clippers vs. Grizzlies rivalry.
Big Men Can Pass
Marc Gasol averaged 7.25 assists during the four-game win streak. He is averaging 4.4 assists per game this year almost a full assist ahead of the next closest center. Gasol, who is only 28, has improved his game each year, however, his assists have gone up each year from his rookie year of 1.7 to last year at 4 per game. Even in the Spurs game he looked great with some passes, then early in the second quarter he was defending down low and all of a sudden you could see his knee was not ok. The scary part is he was not hit in the knee, it seemed to just happen, let’s hope the MRI comes back tomorrow with good news. Now if he is gone for significant time, Kosta Koufos and Ed Davis will have to step up big time, but seriously let’s all hope Gasol is not out for a long time he was really starting to play well all around.