Game Notes: Grizzlies at Suns
The ‘Tape Recorder’ still gets it done.
by Dennis Tarwood
In the 1958 war drama Run Silent, Run Deep, Burt Lancaster and Clark Gable spent most of the film befuddled by the Japanese navy, who seemed capable of striking from every direction and knowing every move of the supposedly invisible USS Nerka submarine.
Not to compare Lionel Hollins too closely to the man who played Rhett Butler, but the Memphis Grizzlies spent most of Thanksgiving Eye being torpedoed relentlessly by the Phoenix Suns on the way to a 126-115 loss that in no way was competitive for most of the second half.
Allen Iverson, possibly avoiding any chance of having to play against Phoenix, retired before the game. Considering Byron Scott’s last game as the coach of the New Orleans Hornets also came in Phoenix, it’s clear the Suns have no intentions of taking any prisoners.
Iverson’s absence also reduced the number of media attending by half and left the well-populated US Airways Center as quiet as the open sea for most of the contest. This helped explain the stealth attack the Suns pulled off after a 1st quarter where the Suns couldn’t mount a decent offensive attack and the Grizzlies snarfed every miss like it was seconds at the Thanksgiving dinner table.
Alvin Gentry switched his squad to pick-and-rolls almost exclusively starting in the middle of the 2nd quarter. The Grizzlies were sunk at that moment but didn’t know they were taking on water until the Suns finished a 17-20 3rd quarter that consisted of only one three-pointer.
But the crowd never rose to the occasion because there were relatively few flashy dunks or threes jacked up. Instead, the relentless waves of pick-and-rolls wore down the Grizzlies until a glance at the scoreboard revealed a 23-point Suns lead.
Lionel Hollins’ squad tried everything they could think of to shake the rising Suns, but absolutely nothing worked. There were modified zones and duck-unders and fight-overs and it’s possible someone even shouted “NOONAN!” At one point, even Zach Randolph set a pick for the Suns by not being able to get out of his own way.
Memphis theoretically set up poorly for Phoenix with their rebounding prowess and post-up ability. Randolph and Marc Gasol did combine for 37 points and 20 boards, but Memphis is where assists go to die. Steve Nash had one more assist (16) than the entire Grizzlies organization (15).
Still, the Suns’ worst spring nightmare might be a first-round matchup with the Portland Trail Blazers. Size, passing, and a deep bench meets or beats Phoenix on their own terms.
The most intriguing battle of the night came between Channing Frye and Marc Gasol. Gasol backed Frye down a few times and received crushing fouls in return. Gasol spent most of the game passing out of the single coverage. Coincidence?
Thanks to some careful grooming, Marc Gasol now looks like the love child of famed television painter Bob Ross and one of his happy trees. But the happy part of the happy tree gene seemed recessive after the game.
Gasol was polite but curt, answering a question about his performance simply: “I was trying to win the game; that’s the only thing we’re trying to do. Obviously, we didn’t, so I didn’t do a good job.” Obviously. (13/7/1 on eight shots in 30 minutes.)
In contrast, Jamaal Tinsley has the optimism of a man that’s only spent five games with the Grizzlies organization. (Or maybe it’s just nice to be out of the state of Indiana.) Tinsley still has enough rust on him that defenders should wear masks to protect their lungs, but flashes of the old Tinsley came through in 21 minutes: the flip shot, the crisp passes in transition, the defense that is more rumor than fact.
“When you get down eight or nine points, you got to learn how to stick together more than we did early in the ball game,” Tinsley confirmed after the game, putting a strong emphasis on “more.” Tinsley’s tone as elder statesman and field coach seems odd on any number of levels. But he’s the oldest player on the team at 31.
“That’s what I’m here to tell ‘em every day. I’m like a tape recorder. ‘Keep playing hard, compete, and always give yourself a chance to win in this league.’”
Jamaal Tinsley: The Tape Recorder. Old tech, still gettin’ it done.
Your still-intrepid Game Notes-taker wouldn’t be surprised to find out Tinsley has surplanted Mike Conley as the starter by Christmas; the offense just looks better when Tinsley mans the one as long as you cover your face when he plays defense.
Speaking of backup point guard crushes, you’ll be hard-pressed to find anyone following the Suns who hasn’t developed a bit of one on Goran Dragic. His wide goofy grin comes more easily this season as well as his fearlessness on the drive or in the passing lanes on defense.
“Yeah, the mood is great… we’re winning; we’re having fun,” said Dragic after the game.
Want more proof? To quote someone more knowledgeable on the matter: “Any1 c Tinsley drble btw Dragic legs & hit a floater only 2 have Dragic go back btw Tinsley’s legs a min later? Dragic showed heart & Comedy” – @the_real_nash
The Suns now possess the best record in all the land at 13-3 after Miami’s win at Orlando Wednesday night. Memphis, on the other hand, slip to 5-11 as they continue a five-game West Coast swing that already has the feel of a sunk battleship. (And Lionel Hollins definitely gives a damn.)
– Zach Randolph frustrated Amar’e Stoudemire into a technical foul in the third quarter, coaxing Amar’e to swing his fist in the air in anger over a foul call. This came less than five minutes after another member of press row commented on Amar’e's new-found calm and focus. And you thought ridiculous media jinxes only applied to free throws.
– Marko Jaric still is not traveling with the team after the birth of his first child November 18 with model Adriana Lima. If you’re starting to wonder if the Grizzlies told Marko it would be alright to stay at home until the child’s ready for school, you’re not the only one.
– The Suns Gorilla came out for the pre-4th quarter trampoline dunk session in a turkey costume. The first thought, of course, was that the gorilla-turkey breeding program was probably a doomed idea from the start. The second thought? Arthur Carlson had to be the one to conceive this. “As God is my witness, I thought turkey-gorilla hybrids could fly.”
– Jack in the Box offered a “3-3-3″ promotion in the 3rd quarter. Best that could be deduced, if the Suns scored a 3 at a certain point in the game, a section of the crowd received a chicken bowl coupon and a chance at a triple bypass.
– Steve Kerr dropped by the Suns’ locker room to wish everyone a happy Thanksgiving since he would not be joining them on the road trip. Goran Dragic cheerfully accepted the well wishes despite having talked mere moments earlier about not typically celebrating the American holiday.