Pace: 87 possessions (slow)
Offensive Efficiency: 126 points/100 possessions (off the charts)
Defensive Efficiency: 121 points allowed/100 possessions (off the charts bad)
What a fun game. Look, if you think you’re just going to walk into Memphis this season and get a win because they are the Grizzlies and all, you’re wrong. The Grizz are 9-6 in their last 15 games and have beaten Cleveland, Dallas, Miami and some other solid teams in that span. And they brought the offense tonight—51 percent shooting and just nine turnovers against the C’s, who lead the league in forcing turnovers.
But damn if Boston didn’t make a big play every time they needed one. Up 103-101 with 1:29 to go? Just call the 3-4 screen/roll with Pierce and KG, and watch as Pierce draws the defense and kicks to KG for the open J.
If the Grizz answer to trim the lead back to 105-103 (and they did)? Call the same play again, and watch as KG’s man (Zach Randolph) just sort of stands there instead of cutting Pierce off, allowing the captain to turn the corner and drive to the hoop for a tough lay-in.
And if the Grizz answers again to trim the lead to 107-105 (and they did)? Call the same damn play for a third time and make them defend it. Only this time, the Grizz did defend it. Randolph jumped out much more aggressively, forcing Pierce to veer wider to the right than he wanted to as he went around the KG screen. With no real angle to the hoop, Pierce fired the ball back to KG hoping to set him up for another open jumper.
But Rudy Gay got a hand on the ball, knocking it into no-man’s land behind the three-point line. And there was Ray, fresh off sitting nearly 7:00 on the bench in the 4th, in the right position to retrieve the ball, take two dribbles and launch a three from the top of the key—while falling to his left as the shot clock expired. Swish. Game over.
Big plays. All night. On both ends, whenever the Grizzlies threatened.
That was the theme of the night. (That and the continued development of Rajon Rondo, which makes me giddier than anything has as a sports fan since maybe sometime in the fall of 2004). The Grizzlies were good and the C’s were a step behind their usual brilliance on D, but they still found a way to win—without overplaying the starters.
Some bullets to tide you over until Brendan’s full recap:
• The C’s needed those big plays in part because their defense just wasn’t at its peak level tonight. That’s going to happen over the course of an 82 game season. But we saw some sloppy and silly plays. Jamaal Tinsley somehow beat Rondo on an off-the-ball cut into the lane in the 1st quarter for an easy hoop. On the next Grizz possession, KG committed a touch foul on Rudy Gay as Gay went up for a dunk.
In the 3rd, KG got whistled for hand-checking Randolph 30 feet from the hoop.
Rajon Rondo got burned over-playing for steals in the final seconds of both the 2nd and 3rd quarters, leading to two Memphis run-outs that produced two last-second hoops.
Just sloppy stuff we normally don’t see from Boston.
• This is not to take credit away from Memphis. To commit just nine turnovers against Boston—about one turnover every ten possessions—is fantastic stuff. And they have guys who are going to create match-up problems for a lot of teams. Gasol is a beast shooting 62 percent, Randolph can score, and O.J. Mayo is a tough match-up for Ray Allen.
Mike Conley also did a decent job running consecutive screen/rolls in the same possession. Rondo would go under the first one, and instead of shooting, Conley would dribble inside the three-point line and call for another screen. At this point, he was within his shooting range, so Rondo had to chase him over screens, setting in motion some tough rotations for Boston.
• The Grizz also made some tough shots tonight—shots I can live with anytime. If Mike Conley is making contested 20-footers, fine. He was shooting 41.8 percent this season before hitting 5-of-9 tonight.
• And yet the C’s had answer every time they needed one. With the C’s up 79-77 late in the 3rd, Gay stole a bad KG pass and streaked down the court for a fast-break lay-up. Except he had no idea Rajon Rondo was right behind him to pick his pocket near midcourt. It’s not just the steal, though. It’s that Rondo had the presence of mind to dribble quickly to the foul line area, pause to survey the scene and dish to Ray on the left wing for a wide-open three-pointer. A five-point lead, and a five-point swing.
Or how about when Pierce passed up an open three-pointer early in the 4th quarter with the C’s up 89-87? Pierce felt the defender on his back, gathered himself and executed a McHale-esque up-and-under to set up for what would have been a tough leaner from the right elbow. But at the last second, he curled a pass back to Sheed, who was wide-open at the top of the three-point arc. Splash. Another five-point lead.
• Only one three-pointer for the Grizzlies tonight, making it five games already that the C’s have held opponents to one or fewer three-point makes. No other team has accomplished that more than three times this season, and it has only happened 27 times league-wide, according to Basketball Reference. It happened just 57 times all of last season, so for one team to have already pulled it off five times in 24 games is pretty remarkable.
• Four offensive rebounds for Shelden Williams, including a huge tap out to Tony Allen that led directly to a TA jumper to stretch the C’s lead to 89-85. (And yes, TA made a jumper). I’ve said it many times before: Shelden Williams is the best offensive rebounder on a team that doesn’t have any other good offensive rebounders (at least not until Big Baby comes back). If he wants to play a role on the team, this can be his role. And he grabbed some huge ones tonight.
• For the record, I was happy with the way Tony Allen played tonight. Let’s set up a Tony Allen Do and Don’t list.
Do: Post up smaller guys (he recorded a hockey assist on a Eddie House three-pointer this way).
Don’t: Handle the ball on screen/rolls (he nearly slipped to the floor when he tried this tonight).
Do: Throw entry passes into the post. He’s good at this, and it’s an underrated skill. He threw a beautiful entry pass to Sheed on the right block when Randolph was fronting Sheed. Sheed got an easy basket out of it.
Don’t: Drive to the hoop if more than one defender is involved.
Do: Relieve Paul Pierce of the burden of defending the Rudy Gays of the world. TA had a lot to do with Gay going just 4-of-12 for 9 points over the final three quarters after scoring 11 in the first quarter.
If you follow these simple rules, Tony, we can have a mutually beneficial relationship. Ok?
• What can you say about Rondo? Last year, I felt like every step forward was followed with a step back. The past 10 games have not felt like that. The past 10 games have felt like continuous progress. He shot 8-of-12 from the floor. He made a confident pull-up in transition from about 18 feet. He is driving to the basket with a willingness to score that we hadn’t seen before—at least not on a consistent basis.
Only once tonight did he pass up a shot in the lane in favor of an dump-off pass he probably (no, definitely) shouldn’t have made. He was so open in the lane with about 6:30 left in the 1st that I thought we were going to see a thunderous dunk. Instead, Rondo inexplicably dropped the ball off to Perk, who was well-guarded in the post. (Perk scored, of course, which is the great thing about Rondo’s bad plays—they are unselfish and still sort of productive).
Cross your fingers. But I think we are seeing the blossoming of a star.
• An underrated thing about Sheed: I sometimes don’t have to watch opponent free throws taken after a C’s foul to know whether the free throws go in. Sometime in the 2nd quarter, Shelden Williams committed a foul, and I got up to fetch some hummus from the fridge as Sam Young stepped to the line. As I opened the fridge door, my television screamed “Ball Don’t Lie!”
• In all seriousness, a really nice game from Sheed. He may be working himself into shape, because today he posted up against some guys with real bulk (Randolph and Gasol). At one point in the 2nd quarter, Sheed scored eight straight Boston points on 4-of-4 shooting, all from the post. He hit a fadeaway over Randolph. He beat Gasol with a drop-step. He scored after Eddie House set a back screen on Randolph at the foul line, forcing Tinsley to switch onto Sheed as Sheed rolled to the hoop. He scored off the TA lob pass I mentioned above.
Four baskets, four different means of scoring from the post. You do this, and I’m less concerned about 1-of-6 shooting from deep.
• When Tommy Heinsohn does that exasperated sigh (the one he reserves for when he thinks the C’s get jobbed on a call), doesn’t he sound a bit like the guy in your office bathroom who is a little too vocal expressing his “relief” when he pees? No? Let’s move on.
• A nice moment from Pierce: Perk was furious after committing a shooting foul on Randolph with about 3:15 left in the 2nd quarter, and he took a few steps toward the ref while holding his arms out in the “what did I do?” pose. Pierce grabbed one of those arms and directed Perk into a U-Turn away from the ref. Perk didn’t protest at all.
Who would have thought in 2004 that Pierce would become this kind of leader?
• I don’t know if you know this, but I think the league passed a rule that KG has to shoot at least 70 percent in every game. Another ho-hum 5-of-7 night from the floor.
That’s it. Look for more from Brendan tomorrow. Three days off before the C’s next game against Philly. Enjoy the rest, boys.