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VOL. 131 | NO. 41 | Friday, February 26, 2016

Post-Gasol: Grizz Doing What They Have To Do, How They Have To Do It

By Don Wade

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Marc Gasol has said it. Zach Randolph has said it. Tony Allen has said it ad nauseam.

Point guard Mike Conley had 24 points and 8 assists in the Grizzles’ 128-119 victory over the Lakers on Feb. 24. Despite losing center Marc Gasol for the season, Conley believes Memphis still can be “dangerous.”

(AP Photo/Brandon Dill)

“We hang our hats on the defensive end.”

So when point guard Mike Conley said it, it wasn’t unusual – except for the fact it came after the Grizzlies had scored a season-high 128 points – while giving up 119 – in a victory over the Los Angeles Lakers Wednesday, Feb. 24, at FedExForum.

“We have to get adapted,” Conley said of the team’s new pace and full-on departure from a ground-and-pound offense now that center Marc Gasol (broken foot) is lost for the season and beat-the-deadline trades have churned the team’s rotation. “We’re used to hanging our hat on the defensive end. We’re a different team. We’re gonna give up a couple of buckets. But we have a lot of firepower.”

Or at least they did in scoring 104 points and beating the young Minnesota Timberwolves and in flirting with 130 points against the hapless Lakers, who lost their seventh straight.

The Grizzlies were to turn around and play the Lakers again, on Friday, Feb. 26 at Staples Center in L.A., and playing a team twice in three days sometimes fosters an upset.

But at the point Kobe Bryant was leaving FedExForum for the last time as a player (13 points on 5-for-14 shooting) and the Lakers were headed out of town, there was little doubt that they were an easy mark.

“The last three games especially, we just haven’t been able to guard anyone,” Lakers coach Byron Scott said. “Teams are scoring pretty much at will, outside and inside.”

To his point: San Antonio scored 119 points on Feb. 19, Chicago 126 points two days later, and Milwaukee 108 points the next night.

So let’s not proclaim these the Go-Go Grizzlies just yet.

“There were a lot of points scored on both ends,” said Grizzlies forward Brandan Wright after contributing 15 of them himself.

Matt Barnes scored a season-high 25 points against the Lakers, Conley had 24 as six players reached double figures and two other Grizzlies had at least eight points. They shot 56.5 percent from the floor and made 13-of-27 threes for 48.1 percent.

“Usually, those are fun games for us and tough games for the coaches to watch,” Wright said.

And yes, that “Amen” you hear is coming from Grizzlies coach Dave Joerger.

He was happy that new guys P.J Hairston (17 points) and Lance Stephenson (eight points) got into the flow of things, but …

“Do we have some things to work on? Absolutely,” Joerger said. “We gave up 17 threes, 15 offensive rebounds and too many free-throw attempts (33). We’ve got to build that trust. That’s basically a new group of guys playing together defensively.

“We’re having Zach play some center and we’re just having all different kinds of lineups. Defensively, I’m concerned. But it was a good win. They don’t ask `How?’ they ask ‘How many?’ at the end of the year.”

The Grizzlies have started the post-All-Star break part of the season by winning two of their first three and running their record to 33-23. The game at L.A. begins a three-game road trip that continues to Phoenix and Denver. Then comes a three-game homestand vs. Sacramento, Utah and the Suns.

None of those teams was above .500 as of Feb. 24.

“You have to win those games, and if you don’t it’s going to hurt us in the end,” Wright said.

“People will just look at our season and say we’re just beating teams we’re supposed to beat, but that’s just part of the league,” Conley said. “You play a team below .500, you gotta win those games. And if you take care of business, and then when play the good teams you steal a few here and there, you’re gonna be a 50-win team at the end of the day.”

And that’s still very possible, even if the path there is different. Even if Gasol won’t be in uniform and the Grizzlies have to now hang their hat more on the offensive end than in years past.

“For a couple of days (after Gasol’s injury) we were all in shock … the trades immediately after, but now that the dust has settled the atmosphere is fantastic,” Conley said. “The personalities we’ve brought in with Lance, P.J., Birdman (Chris Andersen), is good for our locker room and the chemistry is great.

“Everybody’s playing hard. People may be doubting us, but I think we can still be dangerous.”

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