Court Vision: Grizzlies survive two OTs behind Gasol
MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Grizzlies center Marc Gasol found his shot to back bigs buddy Zach Randolph in Memphis’ 122-110 win over the Suns in double overtime. Here are three takeaways.
1. Tony Allen mutes the anger of the play that took it to overtime
Leads are blown in the NBA and the Grizzlies (26-11) did that, blowing a 16-point lead, one that was 12 in the fourth quarter.
But goaltending is also called and that’s what Grizzlies fans wanted on the shot that sent the game to overtime.
Eric Bledsoe grabbed the net on P.J. Tucker’s make and appeared to clearly shake the ball in as it was on its way out. Referee Violet Palmer, who drew the ire of Grizzlies fans much of the night, didn’t call it from her point of view under the goal.
But without Palmer swallowing her whistle, Tony Allen wouldn’t have been able to deliver his magic.
Allen, the Grizzlies defensive mouthpiece who was celebrating his 33rd birthday and got a crowd-led rendition of ‘Happy Birthday,’ scored 12 points. But his defense was worth much more. On one stolen pass, Allen stopped and gave the crowd a stare — to a large cheer.
His biggest two plays came in the first overtime. With Memphis down two and turning the ball over, Allen and Mike Conley pressured Suns point guard Isaiah Thomas. Thomas threw it to Grizzlies guard Courtney Lee, who tied it with two free throws. Tied, it was Allen who smothered Eric Bledsoe and forced a miss from 17 feet as time expired tied at 108.
"You know, I live for that moment. I love that moment," Allen said, with a sly grin. "If I don’t get that stop, I feel like I let my team down."
Bledsoe had already made a 3-pointer that gave Phoenix (22-18) a one-point lead. Allen was bent on it not happening again.
Grizzlies fans are bent on loving the eccentric Allen, Memphis’ adopted son, who returns the love in animated aggressiveness.
2. Z-Bo’s early play set the tone for Memphis
Randolph had missed nine games with a sore knee and hadn’t played a home game since Dec. 19.
He scored the Grizzlies’ first 12 points and finished with a season-high 27 points and 17 rebounds. He fouled out in the second overtime.
"He was aggressive and he got us going," Gasol said.
Gasol didn’t seem as aggressive as he has been in leading the team with nearly 20 points per game. He did turn it on in the second overtime, scoring the first seven points of a 14-2 extra period. He also had two of his nine rebounds and two of his four blocks then.
"Marc is the best big man in the game," Randolph said. "That is what he does. He picks and chooses his spots."
Randolph is more than a double-double machine, that his 18th of the season. Memphis entered the game shooting 41.9 from 3-point range with Randolph on the court, opposed to 31.2 with him off the court.
One of the two bigs would be a problem. Two of them in bully-mode is a situation.
"Early in the game, it was easy to find Zach Randolph," Grizzlies coach Dave Joerger said. "I’m not saying we were trying to get away from finding Marc. Maybe he was trying to find his rhythm. In the second overtime, he was aggressive where we needed him to be."
3. Grizzlies G Quincy Pondexter watched the game from a suite box. Did the trade affect the team?
Make that former Grizzly Quincy Pondexter. It is expected to be official on Monday, but the Grizzlies, Celtics and Pelicans have reportedly completed a three-team, five-player trade that sends Pondexter and a second-round pick to New Orleans and Tayshaun Prince with a future first-round pick to Boston.
The Grizzlies get a piece they hope will fill an athleticism need by acquiring Celtics forward Jeff Green (along with Russ Smith from New Orleans).
It may or may not have caught up with the team emotionally in a Friday loss at New Orleans and again with a blown lead Sunday. Lee said it wasn’t a factor. Conley and Randolph said it could have had an effect.
"It’s always an emotional time, because you’re losing one of your brothers," Lee said. "It’s a business first and foremost."
Lee, who scored 18 points, may be the guy who goes to the bench for Green. If so, he’s already said he understands the business.
Pondexter and Prince were held out of the game. As for Green, he can defend either forward spot and can score. He leads the Celtics with 17.6 points per game.
But if Green can stop some of the bleeding from behind the arc, it was worth it. Not bleeding from not making 3s, bleeding from allowing them. Opponents have had a party recently. In back-to-back losses, Atlanta hit 13 and New Orleans hit 10.
The question may be ‘Will Green start?’ and ‘Who will sit?’ But the question should be: Can he close out on the 3-ball unlike Memphis has been able to do?’ If yes, the scoring may wind up being the gravy of the deal.
STATS THAT MATTER
25-7-8 — Conley’s line, flirting with a double-overtime triple-double.
15:06 — Brandan Wright’s time (7 points) in his Suns debut.
"They have great bigs that are physical."
—Phoenix C Alex Len on Gasol and Randolph
"The ball went in."
— Gasol on overcoming a slow start with seven points in the second overtime