Boy it feels sweet to be at a Grizzlies victory and the pre-game party was pretty tasty as well. Not just a victory either but a blowout win where the team came together and really played as a team in the 2nd half to completely thwart a talented opponent. Sure Charlotte has only 25 wins and is not threatening to grab a playoff spot in the weak Eastern Conference but any team with Jason Richardson, Gerald Wallace and free agent in waiting Emeka Okafor is not a team to overlook either.
If anyone was wondering who was going to be the on-court leader of the Grizzlies down the stretch should have had those questions answered tonight. Mike Miller played huge tonight from hitting big baskets, to grabbing rebounds and basically putting the team on his back and refusing to allow them to succumb to an early deficit. He played like a man who wanted to prove he is deserving a spot on this summer's Olympic team. He was that big last night against a pretty good player in Jason Richardson.
Juan Carlos Navarro can't be forgotten in the victory either. Despite being held in relative check in the 2nd half Navarro made many defensive plays to disrupt the Bobcats offense (yes I said defensive) and his 12 points in the first half kept the Grizzlies in contention when it seemed no one else could make a basket. Navarro ended up leading the Grizzlies in scoring with 21 points but it was the first half where he was most impressive.
Darko Milicic played a decent game. He shot the ball poorly including attempting to lay the ball in to often instead of just dunking the ball which resulted in one particularly embarrassing block by Gerald Wallace but he kept being aggressive offensively and drew some important fouls in the 2nd half. If Darko could hit free throws he would have been far more important in the final outcome. Still his 10 pts and 11 boards were a big aid in the 2nd half run.
Hakim Warrick didn't start which not only surprised me but the announcer as well. Hak had a decent game off the bench however and he his scoring helped the bench provide a scoring punch that was needed. Free throws hurt Hak's overall game as he was only 5-11 from the line.
If anyone had told me before the game that Rudy Gay would be in foul trouble all night and only score 8 points I would have assumed the Grizzlies would be blown out. Instead Rudy contributed in other ways holding Gerald Wallace to only 10 points and dishing out 4 assists. Rudy also was more vocal tonight than I have seen him in a while which I believe contributed to other players taking the lead offensively. He seemed to be encouraging his teammates to be more aggressive and not look to him so much. I don't know for sure if that was the case but the way Miller, Navarro and Hak took over seemed to make that impression valid.
Charlotte looked tired after playing yesterday in Cleveland. That doesn't explain the poor shooting from Jason Richardson and Raymond Felton however. Their combined 7-32 shooting had as much to do with the Bobcats defeat as the Grizzlies offensive heroics. Matt Carroll, a dangerous shooter for the Bobcats, was held to only 2 attempts and he failed to hit either one. Thank Juan Carlos Navarro for that ineffectiveness.
The Grizzlies now head to Minnesota to face the TWolves and another opportunity to put together a winning streak. The effort tonight should make that trip more encouraging.
Thanks to Joe Murphy and Getty Images for the great photos of Mike Miller and Rudy Gay. Chipc3 took the dance team picture at the Downtown Party. Everyone missed a great event there. Chris Wallace spoke and took questions (the man is a masochist the way he stands up there and takes questions), the Dance team made appearances and the food (Shrimp, tenderloin sandwiches, spicy chicken, chips and dip plus desserts) were fantastic. Another opportunity lost for those of you who didn't attend. The Grizzlies did it right this time!