Memphis broke an interesting streak by winning on MLK Day against someone other than Houston. Memphis is now 1-3 against teams not named Rockets on MLK Day.
If Gasol wanted to impress Chicago into making a sweeter offer for his services he did nothing tonight to make Paxson think he needed Gasol's interior scoring. Most of Gasol's points came from outside or the line. I am not sure Gasol didn't have a cold/flu or something because he seemed very uncertain on the court but still fought through whatever was bothering him to post a double-double with 12 pts, 10 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 blocks. Not bad production for a bad game.
Mike Miller's value to the team should not be argued right now. When the team was looking for a spark it was Miller who made the fast break plays, the big three pointer or the big rebound. His double-double with a team high 24 pts and 10 boards couldn't have been more impressive, especially after the Charlotte let down without Miller.
Chicago has some troubles with this team. Their best players appear to be Deng, Nocioni and Gordon. However they get very small if all three are on the court at the same time. It gets even worse with Ben Wallace on the court as he has lost a lot of the speed and hustle that made him one of the most feared defensive players in the league just three years ago. Wallace got credit for 13 boards but when Gasol gets 10 that is not a big enough advantage to off-set the lack of offensive skills. Gasol had 3 blocks to Wallace's 1 as well.
Rudy Gay is starting to get more comfortable on defense. His four steals and only 3 fouls in 41+ minutes means either Rudy is starting to get more respect from the officials or that he is playing smarter and choosing his opportunities better. His offense is terrific as well. 24 points, 3-6 from the arc and 10 boards to go with the steals means a very well-rounded game against some tough competition. Luol Deng and Andres Nocioni aren't chopped liver after all. It was announced tonight that Rudy Gay has been invited to the All-Star Slam Dunk contest too.
Mike Conley is so cool it is scary. How many rookies will take it right into the heart of Chicago's defense and challenge Ben Wallace. The first time he did it I told a friend that next time in the lane Wallace was going to kill him. Not two minutes later Conley did it again and was so quick Wallace couldn't stop it again. Conley's 10 pts and 10 assists were very encouraging against Kirk Hinrich who was on the FIBA team with Mike Miller this summer.
Stro and Hak played solidly off the bench. Darko struggled and will likely continue to see his minutes drop if the bench bigs continue their strong offensive play. Navarro was pretty quiet but still made some nice three pt shots. Chicago did eat up his only attempt at the La Bomba runner in the lane however. After that Navarro stayed mostly on the perimeter. Lowry was unspectacular but also didn't commit too many silly turnovers. The most disappointing play tonight was from Bobby Jones who seemed in a fog and let a Darko pass go out of bounds simply because he didn't make a move to get it.
Great win for the Grizzlies in front of a 'sell out' crowd. Apparently some people in the lower bowl especially came dressed as empty seats. Pretty sad considering the distinguished guests in the audience and the talented half-time show. The Grizz pulled out almost all the local talent as well. The Grannies and Grandpas performed, GrizzLine pounded out a number, the dance team performed well and there were lots of give-aways all night including Mardi Gras beads, t-shirts and mini soft basketballs. Good job by the Grizz front office on putting on a good show for the crowd. The noise was absent early but really was great in the 4th quarter.
Good win tonight with the icing on the cake coming from beating one of NBA darling franchises on national TV. Suck on that Sam Smith!
Everybody except Darko and Bobby Jones played good to great games. And those 2 only combined for 10% of the available playing time, so it is easy to see why the Griz won.
4 Memphis players had a double-double. That's a sure recipe for success.
Congrats to Micheal Conley for setting his new assist career high and for finally getting a Memphis player this year to have over 10 assists.
Tonight, in my eyes, showed why being able to make shots and also get to the foul line is the secret to winning in the NBA. The Bulls had 10 more offensive rebounds, 5 more steals and committed 5 less turnovers, yet the Griz dominated virtually the whole game because the Griz shot better (52% vs 37%) and shot twice as many free throws (29 vs 14).
A little about the Bulls. They looked bad tonight. Bad in that "we have an interim coach, no identity and players with contracts and trades on their mind" bad. Out of all the Grizzlies games this year, this Bulls team is clearly the team most afraid of taking the ball into the lane. Are they allergic to close shots? Is the coach dictating that they only take jump shots? I think the NBA needs to investigate the Noah suspension. I suspect he got suspended for violating the "only shoot jumpshots" rule.
Also, I think my pregame Key to Stomping a Mudhole in the Bulls was pretty spot on. Clearly the Bulls had no legs, nor felt comfortable playing at a fast pace. Like I mentioned before, the Bulls have yet to win when their opponent scores more than 100 points. I especially liked the long, almost full court passes to people like Mike Miller for easy transition buckets. This team needs to "Go, Go, Go" (that is my favorite line to yell during the games) as much as possible.
I really like the way Conley/Miller/Gay/Pau are starting to play together (with an emphasis on the Conley/Miller/Gay part), as I also am liking the chemistry the bench is developing, as Lowry, Navarro, Hak, and Stro seem to be having more success together. All signs point towards Darko not starting anymore, but I can also see where he is better stuck with the starters than the bench. Hak doesn't need to be taking shots away from Rudy, Mike and Pau.
What was up with the occasional Chicago collapse on Gasol with all 5 players? What is that called? A "double-double-plus-one" team? A "double-triple" team? A "pentagon" team? Sheesh. But also I thought playing Gasol with multiple defenders coming at him was a solid plan (maybe one or two, but not all five players though), because Pau is committing too many silly turnovers when getting double teamed. (Chip, if Lowry having 0 turnovers equals "didn't commit too many", how do you classify Pau's?...hahaha...j/k)
I also want to mention the good job the Griz did at weathering the 3rd quarter slump. This season, the 3rd quarter has been pretty bad at times. And we started the 3rd with about 8 boneheaded, terrible plays, that resulted in 4 or 5 turnovers, 2 Chicago offensive rebounds, and a few stupid fouls. But Iavaroni called a timeout, and after one last turnover coming out the timeout, the team regrouped and pushed the lead back into double digits. Nice resiliency.
Tonight was a needed feel good win. Enjoy it. And congrats to Rudy for being named to the Dunk Contest!
Go Over to Blog-a-Bull and read about Matt's trip to Memphis to watch his Bulls get mauled (thanks, AP) by our Grizzlies on MLK day. He had nice things to say about downtown and the FedEx Forum. He likes the stadium being in the middle of downtown. He also mentions the powerful T-shirt Gatlin gun thing (what is it called, the T-Machine?).
But you didn't think I was going to end this without mentioning his thoughts on Pau Gasol do you? I'll quote this part for you.
As suspected, Grizzlies fans do not like Pau Gasol (who they do like: Miller, Navarro, and Gay). He sure looked like crap during the game, which didn't help. One fan next to me kept saying they'd be happy to send him to Chicago, and that he earned the nickname of 'GassHole'. In the 2nd half when Pau was isolated with the ball, the fans collectively made a sound similar to what the UC sounds like when Wallace has the ball. I told Griz fans that we'd still be happy to take him, as he seems to have all the characteristics needed to be considered a Bull.I've actually never heard "GassHole" before, surprisingly. Though I am not surprised that it was quite evident that alot of the crowd does not like Pau. I figured he would have heard fans call him "Paula" or some version that hints at a feminine side. Anyway, makes sure and check out Blog-a-Bull. Matt is likely to have some more posts up about his trip for the MLK game.