Heat 97 Grizzlies 78 (Griz record: 0-1)
Another season opener, another loss for the Grizzlies, as a rather unfortunate trend is in full bloom--the Grizzlies simply cannot win a home opener in Memphis. Of course, this is much different than last year's incredible embarrassment in losing to the Wizards on Opening Night, but the Grizzlies are 0-1 once more all the same.
Pau Gasol played very well last night, finishing with 26 points and 12 rebounds, to go along with 4 assists and 3 blocks. A stat-stuffing night for the Spaniard, but one in which he got little help. Pau's aggressiveness at the game's outset was striking, as he clearly suited up with one thing on his mind: to start proving his critics wrong. He showed persistence on the boards (6 offensive rebounds), and a refreshing willingness to take on Shaq and Alonzo Mourning in one-on-one situations when it was asked of him. He won't face a more imposing big man tandem all season. Pau disappeared a little in the second half, but I think it was more a function of quick shots taken out of rhythm by some of the perimeter players. The offense wasn't in its normal flow in the second half, and Pau's numbers suffered as a result.
Speaking of which, it's obviously a concern when your three new backcourt players shoot a bricktastic 11-37 combined from the field. Yikes. Damon Stoudamire, Eddie Jones, and Bobby Jackson were not in any kind of flow. The shots looked a little forced, especially with Bobby Jackson (7 FG attempts in 15 minutes of play), and as a result, the offense didn't look right at all. The team panicked when Miami started effectively utilizing the transition game in the third quarter, highlighted by a 17-2 run that saw Miami grab the game by the throat. You would expect that we won't see another shooting night like we saw last night from those three. Perhaps one or even two will be off, but for all three to be off simultaneously hopefully won't happen again. If it does, you can expect a similar score.
Mike Miller off the bench seems to work well--he came in red-hot and it gave the team a spark. Good teams seem to have a difference-maker stowed away on the bench. I like the option of starting Battier and bringing in Mike--let's see how it works over the next few games.
When everyone in the arena knew the Grizzlies lacked energy and spark in the second half, I think most of us expected to see first-round draft pick Hakim Warrick in the game to inject some life into things. It didn't happen (until garbage time). I don't understand why Warrick was left on the bench--he has shown some decent signs in the preseason, and he would have certainly brought energy, even if it would have been of the nervous kind. Was it really that risky to put him in? Maybe we'll see more Hakim vs. Orlando tomorrow night.
Lorenzen, where were you last night?
Please don't forget that the Heat are a really good team. I know it's tempting to freak out and get all crazy over the bad performance last night, but this is nothing like last year's shocking loss to the Wizards. That Wizards team had 8 active players, and people like Michael Ruffin, Peter John Ramos, Jared Jeffries, and Juan Dixon killed the Griz. This year, it was Dwyane Wade, Antoine Walker, and Shaq. Big difference. The Heat are expected to at least make it to the Eastern Conference Finals this season, and are one of the few teams that can realistically compete with San Antonio for the title. Let's keep this in perspective, please.
Shaq looked fine--he never seems to do a whole lot against the Grizzlies, while Antoine Walker ALWAYS kills the Grizzlies. No matter who he plays for, he just dominates against the Griz.
Walker's Lines vs. MEM:
12/23/01 (w/BOS): 24 pts, 11 reb, 4 asst, 2 stl
3/15/02 (w/BOS): 38 pts, 7 reb, 6 asst, 4 stl (including a 60-foot 3 at the buzzer
12/31/02 (w/BOS): 33 pts, 11 reb, 6 asst, 3 stl
3/3/03 (w/BOS): 17 pts, 14 reb, 6 asst, 1 stl
11/15/03 (w/DAL): 15 pts, 10 reb, 6 asst
12/27/03 (w/DAL): 13 pts, 10 reb, 8 asst, 2 stl, 2 blk
2/17/04 (w/DAL): 6 pts, 8 reb, 3 asst, 2 blk (26 minutes)
4/13/04 (w/DAL): 8 pts, 7 reb, 9 asst, 4 stl, 1 blk
12/8/04 (w/ATL): 31 pts, 9 reb, 1 stl
1/29/05 (w/ATL): 17 pts, 8 reb, 3 asst, 1 stl, 1 blk
11/2/05 (w/MIA): 25 pts, 16 reb, 4 asst, 1 blk
OVERALL AVERAGES v. MEM: 20.6 pts, 10 reb, 5 asst, 1.6 stl
Damn. He always presents such a difficult challenge for the Grizzlies because of his size and versatility. The only time he really didn't hurt the Grizzlies much was during his time with Dallas, when he was coming off the bench and only playing 25 or so minutes a game. When he starts against the Grizzlies, his numbers are even better than those averages. If I have Walker on my team and I see Memphis on the schedule, he starts and plays 48 minutes.
Dwyane Wade is every bit as good as LeBron James.
For starters, although Ron and I played a hand in Grizzlies dance team tryouts, we had nothing whatsoever to do with those gold/black 1950's-style costumes the dance team had on in the first half last night. I'm not really a fashion guy, but I've seen the girls enough to know that the stockings and granny panties made them look about 20 lbs. heavier apiece. It is my hope that we never see those again. Hell, why don't we strap fat suits on them all? Maybe put a Depression-era one-piece swimsuit with a swimming cap on them? This isn't Barbara Stanwyck and Katharine Hepburn out there. What's wrong with a nice sports bra/spandex shorts combo? Or a schoolgirl outfit? Nothing at all. No need to put us through that again.
If you weren't there last night, you missed the Grizzly Grannies. The fans seemed to dig them, so that's good...I myself was not a fan. I don't know that we really need to see old women stripping. Wait, let me re-read what I just typed. Quick correction: I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that we never, ever need to see old women stripping. One poor woman got her shirt caught in her feather boa--but fortunately a teammate helped her get it off. That's teamwork, folks. Overall, I would say watching the Grizzly Grannies entertained me in the same way that watching a fat guy wrestling a greased pig would--yes, it's entertaining, but should it be?
Now, I feel compelled to tell you about the halftime show. It was absolute visual overload--here's a list of what comprised it (none of this is made up):
--Four (4) giant white sheets draped from the ceiling to the floor
--Four (4) women gyrating in and on said sheets as if having epileptic seizures
--One (1) giant red sheet from the ceiling to the floor
--One (1) shirtless dude flopping around on the red sheet as if ill
--One (1) guy in blue spandex costume on a bungee wire doing random spastic flips
--Two (2) women in sequined gymnastic suits twirling metal rods
--One (1) three-faced giant, complete with massive cape and flowing robe, on stilts wandering around aimlessly with a giant scepter, presumably casting some sort of "spell" on the group
--One (1) shirtless, dirty man inside an enormous wireframe cube (it would appear to have been a "prison"), which he eventually lifted up and twirled as if some sort of New-Age Harlem Globetrotter, only with a giant metal cube instead of a basketball
Now, imagine if you will all of those pieces moving and thrashing about to some sort of funereal, bizarre music for about 5 minutes or so, and you've got yourself a halftime show. Oh, there was one other aspect of the show I forgot to mention:
--Eighteen thousand one-hundred nineteen (18,119) confused spectators
I think I was impressed. Or frightened. Either way, it was better than Leg Strength Guy or Unicycle Bowls Lady, and right up there with Quick Change. I'll be interested to see what they've got in store for Saturday. Perhaps I'll rank the halftime shows as the season progresses.
No scoreboards in the first half--that wasn't too great.
My cell phone wallpaper is now a picture of me and funk legend Bootsy Collins backstage at the Grizzlies game last night. Alonzo Mourning told Bootsy, "Keep the funk alive!" Also, Dwyane Wade and Shaq took time to show respect to Bootsy before heading out. Words cannot describe the clothing Bootsy had on. It looked like a kaleidoscope threw up on a homeless man.
I should also point out that Dwyane Wade and Shaq both were very gracious and kind to the huge number of fans that showed up to greet them after the game. Both of those guys are real ambassadors for the league, and epitomize the behavior that David Stern should emphasize in the league, regardless of dress code.
By the way, this is hilarious.