For about 15 minutes tonight’s 96-85 win at FedExForum looked like a rehash of the Grizzlies embarrassing home loss to the Nets. The Grizzlies came out sluggish and mustered only 16 points in the opening period, compared to 24 by Toronto. Like the Nets loss, the Grizzlies were outperformed early by a team they should have been dominating. This time the lack of effort was stopped. By Tony Allen.
He stopped the Raptors too. Allen notched 14 points, six steals, eight rebounds and two assists in a season-high 32 minutes, and was the catalyst for a Grizzlies team that, early on, looked as lethargic as they did before the break.
“I just come in and play my game,” Allen said. “This my seventh year in the league and I just use every moment I get to bring energy and cause havoc the best that I can.”
Allen and Rudy Gay combined for 11 steals. Gay also had five steals in the previous game at Indiana.
The Grizzlies were able to get on track behind the defensive effort from Gay and Allen in the second quarter, and finished the half ahead by four.
“I just thought our effort was tremendous during that period, we outscored them by 12 and then again by 10 in the third… I thought our defense was just superb,” coach Lionel Hollins said after the game.
Dunk of the Game
In case it wasn’t clear earlier, Tony Allen was not messing around. Halfway through the second period, Allen managed to turn three consecutive steals into a fast break dunk. The next play, Allen stole the ball again, and ended it with another fast break dunk. On both plays Allen stole the ball, tipped it to another player (Mike Conley, Gay) and that player shoved it right back to Allen for the dunk. It was the cookie for the effort. Even more significant, the first dunk tied the game, and the second gave the Grizz their first lead of the night.
And now at point guard… Rudy Gay?
Because defensive success was propelling the team, and due to Toronto’s use of mostly zone and “loose man-to-man” defensive schemes, Hollins used a rotation late in the third and early in the fourth that featured neither of the team’s two point guards.
In the third, Gay and Allen were joined by Zach Randolph, O.J. Mayo and Darrell Arthur. In the fourth Arthur was replaced with Gasol. In both instances, Rudy Gay acted the trigger man. The interesting setup worked well, but Hollins was reluctant to elaborate on whether it was a setup fans could expect to see more of.
“There’s not any ball pressure so pretty much anybody can bring the ball up and get us into the offense,” Hollins said. “Tonight I felt like I could get away with it because of the way they played and I just liked our defensive energy.”
Just one today. It’s late and I’m still in holiday mode. This one is from Grizzlies PA announcer Rick Trotter, who somehow finds ways to be hilarious on the tweet while still rocking the mic.
Almost had my face smashed in by an errant basketball. Saved by Ron Tillery! I thought he only protected Coach Hollins?
With the Raptors missing several starters, career journeymen like Linas Kleiza were forced to start. Kleiza made the most of the opportunity, finishing with 22 points. “Kleiza good,” Randolph said afterwards. The Grizzlies have won seven of their last nine at FedExForum. The Raptors shot an embarrassing .357 from the free throw line, a season low and the lowest by an opponent since the Grizzlies moved to Memphis. Zach Randolph changed headbands at halftime. Apparently this is normal. Memphis product and town golden boy Joey Dorsey started the game, his second of the season. Dorsey had 10 points and 13 rebounds before fouling out. Sam Young started the game in place of Xavier Henry, who is day-to-day with a bruised knee, but was quickly replaced by Mayo and Allen.
The Grizzlies play next at Sacramento on Wednesday.