The Memphis Grizzlies may not realize it yet, but it is possible that the coaching staff struck gold.
The Grizzlies defeated the Miami Heat Wednesday night, 107-102, in a game that was not the typical showdown one would expect to happen between these two defensive powers.
Both teams played a very up-tempo offensive game, shooting great overall from the floor. Memphis shot 55.1 percent from the field, while Miami shot 52.1 percent as a team.
The entire game was back and forth between the two teams, with lead change after lead change. Between both teams, 22 three-point shots were hit, which is telling to the kind of offensive explosion this game turned out to be.
LeBron James was no slouch on the offensive end, as he carried his team with 37 points on 14 of 23 shooting to go along with six rebounds, five assists and two steals for the night. Zach Randolph, meanwhile, was the big threat for the Grizzlies, scoring 25 points on 12 of 15 shooting to go along with 11 rebounds. Randolph started the game hot, hitting his first nine shots and putting up 19 points by the mid point of the second quarter.
Even though the Heat performed well enough to win the game tonight, it was the lineup change down the stretch for the Grizzlies that held the game together and ultimately got them the win.
Once the game got to around the six minute mark, Grizzlies coach David Joerger substituted Nick Calathes into the game, giving the team Calathes, Mike Conley, Zach Randolph, Tony Allen and Marc Gasol. This lineup may not appear to be the most offensively potent on paper, but in practice this lineup was very productive for the Grizzlies in crunch time.
When Calathes entered the game, the entire way the Grizzlies ran their offense changed. Instead of Conley being the primary ball handler, Calathes was assigned that duty and excelled in the process. Calathes was a catalyst on offense, setting up Conley and Randolph for some big shots down the stretch, and even finishing a reverse lay up off of one of Miami’s four turnovers over the stretch since Calathes came into the game.
Calathes and the rest of the Grizzlies were able to stick to their men down the stretch and rotate on defense to double team and disrupt the Heat’s flow causing multiple turnovers which led to big buckets for Memphis.
Defensively, Calathes can guard his man, and Conley and Allen have already proven they are great perimeter defenders with their merits in previous seasons. Gasol can man the post, and Randolph is good enough of a defender to not be a liability on that end of the floor.
With another ball handler on the court, Conley is free to move into position for an open shot or a clean cut to the basket for an easy score, making his life on offense much easier. The two point guard lineup gave Memphis stability on both sides of the ball, which paid dividends towards the end of the game.
Not only did this lineup seal the deal for the Grizzlies in a big and necessary win against the Heat, but it gave them hope that they have the roster to get wins in the NBA postseason.
As long as the coaching staff puts the right players together out on the floor.