Grizz Insider: Defense is the key
It was just after the Grizzlies' 102-86 victory over the Derrick Rose-less Chicago Bulls on Monday afternoon that Memphis forward Marreese Speights, one of the newest Grizzlies, turned to veteran forward Rudy Gay and said, "Hey, we're pretty good, aren't we?' "
Gay's response: "I'm like, 'I don't know what you've been used to.' "
Gay said that even though the Grizzlies struggled at the start of the season, then had to adjust to losing Zach Randolph until March with a torn MCL ligament. Through it all, the team's winning attitude established last year in the playoffs has never wavered.
"When we get new people coming to our team now, they have to be able to help us," Gay said. "We're no longer the team that's known as a pushover. We're a playoff team. So when you get on this roster, you have to pick up your level."
Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins, with his team closing out a four-game homestand with a three-game winning streak that puts Memphis at 6-6 heading into Wednesday's game at New Orleans, is happy with his squad's growth.
"You can always feel good at 6-6," Hollins said. "The last two years we started 3-8 and 2-9 so it's a better feeling than in the past. I just keep trying to stress to the guys we are getting better. The reason we're getting better is we're working.
"We're coming in focusing on what we need to do, acclimating those outside guys into our team, because they are part of our team now, getting them to be on point with our schemes."
The Grizzlies jumped in the Bulls face from the beginning and never backed away, leading by 27 points at one point and never trailing. Memphis forced 19 Bulls' turnovers, converting them into 26 Griz points. "That's what we wanted to do from the beginning of the game -- pick up full-court, inbounds plays and make a statement that we're going to be in this game for all four quarters," point guard Mike Conley said.
Forward Rudy Gay was named as of the final 20 Olympic team candidates. Gay played on Team USA two summers ago in the World Championships. "He's one of the premiere athletes in the game of basketball," Griz coach Lionel Hollins said of Gay. "He's versatile, he can play multiple positions. If he keeps playing the way he's playing, just being a good versatile basketball player, the scoring will take care of itself."
QUOTE TO NOTE
"It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure it out. They didn't have D. Rose. That group isn't good enough to win without (him)." -- Guard Tony Allen on how the Griz won by 16 over the Bulls on Monday after losing to them by 40 on Jan. 1.
G Mike Conley re-aggravated a sprained ankle in the Grizzlies' home opener back on Dec. 28 and it's taken until the last week for Conley to feel like himself. But he's blowing and going now, scoring a season-high 20 points vs. the Bulls on Monday while dealing eight assists, grabbing seven rebounds and swiping four steals. "My ankle is getting better, my injury is starting to go away a little bit," Conley said. "I feel rejuvenated and just tried to make plays for our team. To beat a good team like Chicago, you have to have energy. You have to outwork them."
F Marreese Speights gets better and better every game for the Griz. He hit some shots early that got the Grizzlies rolling and he finished with 16 points and a career-high 12 rebounds. "My teammates have helped me a lot to adjust here, so it's going pretty good. I'm glad we got the win," Speights said. I feel pretty good. I know Memphis lost big to them before and when it's on home court, you feel like that's disrespect, so we went out there and did what we had to do to win." Griz coach Lionel Hollins said Speights is beginning to understand how hard he has to play for the Griz to win. "I told him after the last game that 'I can see your effort, you're improving, I can see you're trying. What I need for you is to expand the length of time when your effort is up there,' " Hollins said.