Last night was a roller coaster ride that ultimately ended with a disappointing Grizzlies loss. Iavaroni is still figuring out this team, experimenting with different lineups. The players are still learning to play with each other (5 "new" players in the rotation) as well as learning to play within Iavaroni's system. In short, this team is still very much a work in progress.
--Andre Brown and Hakim Warrick were on the inactive list, meaning Kinsey and Swift came back on the active list. Mildly interesting that Hak was not active.
--Pau was on fire in the first half, scoring 19 points, then was a total non-factor in the second half. Pau only attempted (and missed) one shot in the second half. The Blazers were able to take the ball out of Pau's hands by sending a hard double team.
--The third quarter was the most damaging as the starters got toasted coming out of the locker room.
--Gay was great. Tied a career high of 31 points. He was the main offensive option in the second half.
--Darko was up and down. He couldn't make a shot near the basket, finishing 3-13. But I still like his defense and ability to get good position on the block. Darko looked a little winded last night. Pau clearly played better with Darko The Enforcer by his side.
--Conley got more burn last night. Him and Lowry played together quite a bit. They even traded 3 pointers off of drive and kicks. Some fans don't like the small PG combination, but generally I do. It will create a disadvantage with Lowry guarding someone half a foot taller, but if we can exploit the offensive advantage the increased speed creates, it could be effective. But truth of the matter is if Kinsey, Navarro or Casey were any better options backing up Miller and Gay, Lowry/Conley would likely not see the court together much.
--Miller, Damon, Navarro and Jacobsen were a combined 3 for 21 from the field and 0-8 from beyond the arc.
Well, as noted in the title, it was a tale of two halves. The Grizzlies looked impressive in the first half, especially Pau Gasol, who put up 19 points while playing the bulk of his minutes with the starters, although he did get a nice snowbird basket off a 3/4 length of the court pass from his amigo Juan Carlos Navarro. Rudy Gay played well for the 2nd straight game, although he did force things a few times, as would be expected from a young player.
As Zack noted above, Michael Conley got playing time again, often in a small backcourt scheme with Kyle Lowry as the other guard. While I like seeing both of these talented young guys on the court, giving them experience and clock to develop, I think that the lack of a veteran presence was a key reason that things "fell apart" in the 2nd half. I know that Damon's shot wasn't falling, but I think his ability to set up his teammates, as he did in the first half, could have helped the Grizzlies to stay in the game a little better in the 4th quarter. Obviously, there are plenty of you out there who have a far different opinion about Damon's capabilities and place on this team, but that was my perspective while watching the team wander off course last night.
Mike Miller......well, MemphisX described his play as "weird" last night and I think that describes it succinctly, if nothing else. Our best three-point shooter is also our leading rebounder. He is our leading assist man as well. Is he working to become Jason Kidd from a swingman position? Or is he deferring his offensive output to allow Rudy Gay more looks? Hard to say at this early point in the season. I'll be tracking him closely this season.
Lowry and Conley.....looked like young PG's to me. There were flashes of greatness, usually followed by the mistakes that excited rookies make when they rush things. I expect both of them to develop into high-quality players soon enough (Conley will be a multiple-time All Star in his career), but it should be obvious that neither of them are there yet.
Darko.....couldn't hit water if you dropped him out of a plane over the Pacific last night. A few of his misses occurred on putback attempts of his own misses, so his shooting wasn't quite as bad as it looked, but the zero blocks showed that he wasn't the force on the interior he had shown himself to be in the first three games.
Hopefully, this was just an off night for a lot of guys -- something that growth, maturity and developed chemistry will improve upon throughout this season.
Go read the post game commentary over at Blazer's Edge.
Dave from Blazer's Edge has posted a great recap of the game from a Portland perspective. Obviously he is quite elated with the win and the heart/determination his team showed in the second half. Here is an excerpt that probably won't be fun to read for Griz fans.
Then...dang. We saw the most inspired half of basketball we've seen in Portland for years. It's like the guys decided they were not going down like that. Numerous things changed immediately upon resumption of play. First we stopped settling for jumpers. We drove and started collecting layups and fouls, exposing a Memphis defense that was really as exploitable as ours is. Second we just started going at it on defense. We continued to play zone but it was a far more aggressive zone. Our smalls hounded the passing lanes, our bigs moved their feet, and our wings stayed in front of their men. We generally limited Memphis to one shot and then gang-tackled the rebound. We went with our speed lineups and started beating them down the floor. When we didn't have a clear scoring opportunity early we moved the ball. The contested mid-range jumpers of the first half became dishes to Lamarcus for jams or passes to the perimeter for open shots in the second half. Our shooting percentage rocketed skyward, Memphis' scoring stalled, and nearly the entire deficit was erased by the end of the third.