It looks like the Tony Allen experiment is working. In the veteran’s second straight start, the Grizzlies earned a third straight win over a quality opponent, beating the Utah Jazz 110-99 last night.
“He definitely gives us a defensive mentality to start the game,” coach Lionel Hollins said about Allen in the starting lineup.
All season Allen has provided the Grizzlies with a spark when he was used, but offensive struggles and a personnel crowd at his position limited his playing time. Those days now appear to be over.
Last night the Grizzlies never trailed, and never even allowed Utah to tie the game, and, led by Allen on defense, scored 27 points off 23 turnovers.
“We never really let it be a game,” Hollins said.
Rudy Gay had one of his biggest nights of the season with 28 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists and 4 steals. Zach Randolph added yet another 20-10 performance with 26 points and 11 rebounds.
Paul Milsap was the high scorer for Utah with 20. Deron Williams added 19.
It’s all about South America
On a night where the Grizzlies honored Chilean Miner Edison Peña (who was a guest of Elvis Presley Enterprises), another South American, Greivis Vasquez, got the game ball.
With starting guard Mike Conley in foul trouble early, Vasquez played significant minutes, many of them guarding Utah’s Deron Williams. Coach Hollins praised the rookie guard for “doing his job” in a situation where the team needed him to be present.
“His defense was the best that he’s played since he’s been here,” Hollins said.
Earlier in the week, Peña had visited Grizzlies practice wearing a Vasquez jersey. Guess he got the mojo working.
That’s the word on the mouths of the Grizzlies in the locker room, especially Tony Allen.
“It’s all about the playoffs, we look at that every day,” Allen said, “But we definitely got to put in the work to get there.”
The Grizzlies three-game win streak (against all Western Conference playoff teams) has moved them out of last place in their division, and only two wins away from a .500 record.
The Grizzlies are currently two and a half games behind Portland for the eighth playoff spot in the West.
Dunk of the Game
Feel like we’re having a bit of a Tony Allen love fest here, but again, Tony Allen. After missing five layups in Wednesday’s win over OKC, Allen told the media that he was going to start dunking to ensure that he finishes. And that’s what he did. Allen slammed the ball home on a fast break in the first quarter to show everyone in the arena that he is likely in the starting rotation for quite a while.
Runners-up: Vasquez had two very nice alley-oops to Darrell Arthur, one of which featured Arthur jumping OVER Hasheem Thabeet to get to the ball. For those wondering, Thabeet played 12 minutes. He had one rebound and one assist.
It was Elvis night at FedExForum, and the larger than normal crowd was fairly excited, often finishing lyrics to songs played in the arena even after they were cut off. O.J. Mayo’s eye appeared to have healed fine from his scuffle with Tony Allen, and both players shared the court and appeared to be friendly. DeMarre Carroll was back with the team after being recalled from the Dakota Wizards. He did not play.
The Grizzlies play again tonight at Oklahoma City.
All photos by Michael Cardwell.