This is what the Grizzlies want out of their bench.
Effective, quick-hit scoring. Bursts of energy. Acceptable defense. And really, just a consistent style of play that keeps the wheels from falling off while the starters are on the bench.
Who would have thought that it would be the bench that led the Grizzlies to a 96-91 victory over the Hornets on Monday night. Memphis — the same team that played its starters an obscene amount of minutes last season and led the NBA in blowing leads down the stretch — actually fought back and won a game because of the guys outside of the starting lineup.
It started in the fourth quarter when the Grizzlies sent the most unlikely of lineups onto the floor. OJ Mayo at point guard with Sam Young to his side, Xavier Henry on the wing, Josh Davis at power forward and Hasheem Thabeet at center. The Grizzlies, who trailed 74-67 to start the fourth, went on an 11-2 tear and captured a 78-76 lead when Henry drilled a 3-pointer.
Henry, the sharpshooting rookie, was 6-of-12 from the field with 15 points, three rebounds and a steal.
“He’s a scorer,” Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins said. “That’s what he is.”
And that’s what the Grizzlies will need him to continue to be, just as they’ll need Darrell Arthur to hold down the post, Hasheem Thabeet to alter shots, Sam Young to contribute a few points and Tony Allen to play some lock-down defense.
On nights like Monday when Zach Randolph was out with an illness, Rudy Gay couldn’t get the calls he needed and Marc Gasol played sub-par, the production from players like Henry can and will decide a game, just as it did against the Hornets.
The Grizzlies’ bench still isn’t anything to get too excited about, at least not yet. Thabeet goes in and out of moments where he shows promise, but then you lift your head and he’s guarding DJ Mbenga 28 feet from the basket. Acie Law and the other guards still don’t understand they can’t treat Thabeet like he’s Marc Gasol and run the offense through him, so every now and then there’s an easy steal and a layup on the other end.
It’s a wait-and-see situation. And if Memphis wants any chance at getting back into the playoffs, it’s one that absolutely must work out.
Before leaving the podium after his press conference, Hollins stopped and said he needed to apologize to the media.
“I’m trying to control my temper … and be a nicer person when I come in here instead of coming in here and being a butthole,” Hollins said.
That’s a far cry from the traditional #thundastick with which he has been so generous in the past. Typically, when Hollins in pressed by the media, he tends to snap back with a harsh comment or tone. It was refreshing to see Hollins do something like this. Let’s see if it lasts.
Mayo had five turnovers, but still looked more than capable during his time at point guard. He finished with 12 points and four assists. Much of Mayo’s time at point guard came because Acie Law has a pulled groin and didn’t need to play extended minutes, Hollins said. … Mike Conley was 9-of-10 from the free-throw line and led all scorers with 19 points. … Hollins picked up a preseason technical foul in the second half after Conley was called for a blocking foul. Hollins didn’t even need to leave his spot in front of the bench to pick up the foul, so it’s safe to say he didn’t have nice words for the referees. He apologizes for this after the game and again referenced his effort to improve his temper.
The Grizzlies will continue their quest for a perfect preseason — sarcasm intended — at Detroit at 6:30 p.m. Friday.
Follow @memphissport @douggillon @bharris901@chasingphoto and @cerrito for live Grizzlies tweets during games and check Memphissport.net after each game for a full recap from FedExForum.
By Brandon Harris, Photo by Chase Gustafson.