Sunday, December 2, 2007

Post Game Thoughts- Minnesota

My first impression is that Minnesota is a terrible team. That is probably true but they aren't as terrible as they played last night. Their schedule had them playing at Dallas Wednesday, at home Friday against San Antonio and then in Memphis Saturday. The TWolves played tough against Dallas and San Antonio but looked flat and listless in Memphis. Chalk this effort by Minnesota up to the schedule maker as much as anything else.
However Memphis still played a very good game. Using a tight 8 man rotation from most of the game, Memphis looked comfortable and confident. Minnesota wasn't that tired at the beginning (remember Memphis led in Toronto after one quarter in Toronto on Wednesday night) and Memphis still dominated play. The 26-21 score didn't tell the story of how dominant Memphis was in that quarter. Damon Stoudamire was on fire hitting three 3 pt shots in 1:21 seconds of game time. Mike Miller, who tied team records for rebounds in a quarter with 8 and a half with 11, was unstoppable on the boards. To me it seemed Mike's rebounds were a direct result of Darko and Pau blocking out the Minnesota big men and leaving Miller to clean up the board.

Speaking of Darko, his thumb isn't healed. He struggled catching the ball and shooting the ball but he knows the fundamentals of the game. He played great defense on Al Jefferson and set tough picks, blocked shots (5) as well as keeping Jefferson away from the offensive glass. Memphis is a far stronger and more physical team with Darko even if he can't catch the ball with that bad thumb.

Gasol was much more active with Darko back in the game but he also was active when Stro was in the game. One play in particular signified how much more active Gasol was tonight. Al Jefferson got a pass down low and faked Gasol into the air and then laid in a shot. Damon took the ball inbounds and promptly launched a long pass down to a streaking Gasol who had beaten everyone down court. The pass was a touch too long and Gasol couldn't finish the shot but the fact that he got from under the basket to the other end that fast showed how much more active Gasol was.

Stromile Swift was the #3 big man and had a sensational night. This surprised me a bit since at the start of the game Stro was sitting at the end of the bench. I was concerned that the return of Darko might put Stro into one of his infamous funks but he played hard from the minute he entered the game and the Grizzlies big men completely controlled the game. If there was a match up that concerned me it was the Minnesota bigs against the Grizzlies. Darko, Pau and Stro not only matched the TWolves but dominated them.

The point guard rotation isn't progressing as I expected and that is a very good thing for the Grizzlies. Damon Stoudamire benefited somewhat from not having to match up against 6-7 Marco Jaric who was not even on the bench tonight. I wonder where he was? On second thought after checking out his girlfriend again I wonder why he ever shows up!

Still Damon played good defense, passed the ball well and was on from outside which opened up the paint for the Grizzlies. His 25 minutes again may mean that he is establishing himself as the primary point guard on the team. I had expected his minutes to be declining not increasing heading into December. Not that Kyle Lowry didn't play well. He did. It is just that Damon seems to run the offense better and as long as he plays respectable defense his outside shooting adds an offensive threat that Lowry can't match.

So it was a nice win for the Grizzlies. This team can't afford to lose a home game to Minnesota and they didn't. The blowout was as much as scheduling victory as a team victory but the tea still did what they had to do to win. Last season there weren't a lot of games that the Grizzlies were expected to win. It is nice to see this year's team do what was expected and so convincingly as well.

Other Postgame Recaps/Reviews
Beyond the Arc
Commercial Appeal
The Sports Network
St. Cloud Times
The Canadian Press

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