The Memphis Grizzlies were sitting at just 13-17 on the 2013-14 NBA season when the new year rang in. They had looked better towards the end of December, winning three of their last five, but it was clear that this team was struggling without their star center and reigning Defensive Player of the Year Marc Gasol.
Since the start of 2014, though, the Grizzlies have found new life, largely due to newfound spacing from recently acquired Courtney Lee and fantastic energy off of the bench from James Johnson. After starting the month 4-2, the Grizzlies got yet another lift when it Marc Gasol took the floor once again returning from a knee injury against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Memphis came out and was dominant defensively, as they can obviously be. Kevin Durant went off for 37 points because those are the things Kevin Durant does, but the Grizzlies defense was able to negate the effects of almost every OKC role player. As a result, the Grizz grabbed their fifth win out of their seven games in January by a score of 90-87.
Looking simply at the box score, you might not be impressed by Gasol in his return to action. The big man played just 24 minutes and put up 12 points, four rebounds and one assist while shooting just 3-7 from the floor and 6-8 from the foul line. However, that’s not everything when it comes to Gasol.
In his 24 minutes on the floor, the Grizzlies were completely in control of the Thunder. In that time, the Grizzlies were putting up 101.7 points per 100 possessions while allowing only 85.6 points per 100 possessions. Both of those marks were better than the numbers the Grizzlies finished with overall, which means they were performing much more soundly with Gasol on the floor.
As I’ve said many times, this Grizzlies team begins and ends with Gasol. Not only is he the anchor on the interior of their defense, but he also sets up so much for them offensively as both a scoring threat and another facilitator. As Memphis is hitting their stride, getting Gasol back could help them roll their way firmly into playoff contention.