For three quarters of last night's game, this felt more like Game 50 of a long, hard season than Game One. There wasn't much to be thrilled about, since the Grizzlies were getting pushed around by a bad basketball team (and make no mistake about it, the Knicks are indeed a bad basketball team).
Of course, that all changed in the 4th quarter and beyond.
The Knicks were bound and determined to give this game away in the 4th quarter. Their shot selection -- and here I am looking squarely at Marbury, Francis, and especially, especially Jamal Crawford -- was atrocious. Appalling. The Grizzlies were down to the bare bones, talent-wise. Hakim Warrick was defending Eddy Curry at the center position! Curry outweighs him by an easy hundred pounds. Curry eats more than Warrick weighs on a daily basis. Yet brilliant tactician (and impeccable businessman) Isiah Thomas decided the Knicks would be better served by Jamal Crawford jacking up bad shot after bad shot.
Good news for the Grizzlies, then, as the Knicks offensive insanity led to defensive malaise, which led to a furious Griz comeback. One quarter and three overtimes later, the Knicks squeaked one out, but there were certainly positives to be found if you're a Grizzlies fan. Negatives, too, of course.
1. Rudy Gay. He was superb. In the 4th quarter and the overtimes, he shot 6-14 from the field and grabbed 7 rebounds (he finished with 21, 8, and 4 blocks). More importantly, he looked very comfortable in the pressure of a tight regular season game. His jumper that landed with 57 seconds left in OT3 was smooth and effortless. He showed a nice post game and good decision-making. AND HE CAN MAKE FREE THROWS! (4-4)
2. Kyle Lowry. What a fun player to watch. He was tenacious on defense and courageous on the boards. How young Lowry got 10 rebounds in his first NBA game is beyond me. Just a remarkable display of desire. He also looked comfortable running the show, and in one game, did more for the Grizzlies than Anthony Roberson and Antonio Burks ever did in the 3rd PG slot. AND HE, TOO, CAN MAKE FREE THROWS! (4-4)
3. Hakim Warrick. Stromile Swift is going to have to fight hard to get his starting 4 slot back. Warrick grabbed 7 offensive boards, scored 22 points, and looked very comfortable with his back to the basket. He is a playmaker and an athletic specimen, and has certainly earned more playing time with this performance. The beginning of a breakout year?
4. Jamal Crawford. Seriously, he might have been the Grizzlies' best player. Apart from a couple of good defensive plays in OT3, he was garbage. Embarrassing performance, more embarrassing that he was allowed to do it by his coach.
5. Crowd enthusiasm. Yeah, the size wasn't great, but the excitement built to a crescendo at the end of the evening. They were on their feet, using their voices, and into the game. Good stuff.
1. Free Throws. Goodness gracious. Make a free throw. It was a problem throughout preseason, and it's a problem now. The Griz went 27-45 from the line. That's 18 misses, for those of you who doubt my math abilities. EIGHTEEN misses! They lost by one. That's enough to make Mike Fratello lose his mind.
2. Mike Miller. What is the opposite of clutch? Mike Miller. Normally, we need to wait until April to see a choke like we saw last night from Mike. He was 1-9 in the 4th quarter and OTs. He almost airballed two free throws that could have given the Griz a one point lead at the end of the first OT. Listen, he's a nice player and a good team guy, but it's time to put this guy on the bench during crunch time. he cannot handle the pressure. It is painfully obvious that he's a three quarter guy. Give the ball to Rudy Gay at the end of the game from here on out. Or Lowry. Or Warrick. Anyone but Miller.
3. The Griz Lost to the Knicks. The Knicks are a very poor basketball team. And the Grizzlies again lost on opening night to a marginal Eastern Conference foe. The Grizzlies need every win they can get in the very tough Western Conference, and this was in every way a winnable game. The Bobcats game tomorrow night is a must-win.
4. Eddie Jones Looks to Be Declining Fast. Mike Fratello simply could not keep Eddie Jones on the floor when the Knicks went with their more athletic lineups after the 3rd quarter. Whether he was tired or too slow, the decline in Eddie's play is obvious. He's coming to the end of a fantastic career. He was leading his teammates verbally on the bench, and he's a great professional, but his usefulness as a player is almost gone.
Overall Record: 0-1 (0-1 home, 0-0 away)