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Joerger’s way is now the way of the Grizzlies

 

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by Kelley D. Evans

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Remember last year when Dave Joerger took the reigns as the Grizzlies new head coach and shared his intention of engineering a quicker offense with more outside shooting?

He wanted to keep opponents from clogging the paint, which would open shots for more players and keep the bigs – most notably Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph – from getting bruised in the paint. 

During the first half of last season, he tried to incorporate that philosophy.  However, the team was ingrained into a defense-and-inside-out-shooting approach. Onlookers watched as the team struggled with Joerger’s vision. Many wondered if the offense would pick up. Grizz players were frustrated; Joerger seemingly even more.

By the second half of last season, the first-year coach made a strategic adjustment.  He regrouped, taking his hard-core bunch back to what had been its bread and butter.

Fast forward and guess what? Joerger’s philosophy has come to the forefront.

The Grizzlies have a quicker offense and they make more outside shots. The players now spread the floor better, which keeps the bigs from being bruised down low.  This has created more shots for center Gasol, who has turned in 30-point performances that have turned NBA heads.

 “The right play is move, catch it, pass it or catch it and drive it,” said Joerger. “Just be very decisive about it.”

Joerger has shown decisiveness without forcing his brand of basketball and the record reflects that things have pretty much fallen into place.

Following a whopping 107-91 win that left the Los Angeles Clippers in dismay, Joerger offered this reflection:

 “It’s just having guys that can space the floor and create closeouts to people.  We are making shots and making threes.”

NOTE: On the road, with a trip to the West Coast and to Houston, the Grizzlies return to the FedExForum to face the defending NBA Champions, San Antonio Spurs, on Dec. 5.

(Follow Kelley D. Evans on Twitter: @KelleySthrnGrl.)

  • Written by Kelley Evans
  • Category: Original

Grizzlies dump Celtics with Leuer big off the bench

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Recuperating from a lineup-altering stomach virus, Memphis romps over Boston.

by Kelley D. Evans

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Nineteen points won’t cure a stomach virus, but they can feel mighty good to a player who returns after an illness to score a season high.

“We are still feeling a little run down, but it’s just a matter when you step between the lines you can’t make any excuses. You just have to go play.”

Those are the words of Grizzlies reserve forward Jon Leuer, one of seven Memphis players on the injury/illness report released before Friday night’s game against the Boston Celtics at the FedExForum. Five of those players had missed Wednesday’s game against the Eastern Conference-leading Raptors in Toronto.

With two players – starter Tony Allen and reserve Quincy Pondexter – still not well enough to take the court against the Celtics, the Grizzlies got a key contribution from Leuer in the 117-100 drubbing of Boston.

Coming off the bench near the end of the first quarter, Leuer subbed for Marc Gasol and when his night was done he had matched the third-highest scoring output of his career.

“I know he’s sick and he was playing his tail off,” said Grizzlies head coach Dave Joerger. “He made some shots, which was good to see, but he can barely keep his head up right now.”

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Leuer’s initial stint in the game extended into the second quarter. He hit two long jump shots, something he’s had trouble doing since the end of the preseason. Then he added a couple of layups and a dunk.

“It’s always nice to see the ball go in, especially when you knock your first couple of shots down,” Leuer said.  “The basket just seems to get bigger from there. I knew if I kept playing hard and kept making the right decisions that things would start to happen.”

 

The Grizzlies’ win extended the regular season home winning streak. They have not lost in the FedExForum since falling to the Washington Wizards during a February 11th game last season.

The Celtics tied their winning hopes to getting the Grizzlies to play at their up-tempo pace. Instead, Memphis forced Boston (4-7) to contend with an inside-out game that the Celtics could not handle.

Gasol led all scorers with 32 points, his third 30-point game of the season. He found the performance of teammates more noteworthy.

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“The guys that played tonight weren’t 100 percent themselves,” Gasol said.  “They gave us what they had. That is what I care about. You come in and you give me what you got, that’s plenty for me.  I couldn’t ask anything more.”

Zach Randolph recorded his 99th career double double with 16 points and 16 rebounds.

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Center Kelly Olynyk, who led Boston with 18 points, spoke to the challenge of defending Gasol.

“He is one of the best five men in this league from a physical standpoint, from a skill standpoint, both ends of the floor offensively and defensively. He is a tough match up for anybody. He played real well tonight.”

The Grizzlies have another day for recuperation before confronting the Los Angeles Clippers at FedExForum on Sunday.

“We’re going to get some fluid in these guys, get their feet up and get ready for Sunday,” Joerger said.

(Follow Kelley D. Evans on Twitter  @KelleySthrnGrl.)

Pondexter back in stride as Grizzlies stomp Rockets

by Kelley D. Evans

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With nine minutes and 12 seconds remaining on the clock in the first quarter, Grizz forward Quincy Pondexter stepped onto the FedExForum court ready to play Monday night. His presence was conspicuous in light of his shortened playing time since his return to eligibility following a season-ending injury last year.

Pondexter knows that the Grizz bottom line is measured in wins and losses. The Grizzlies won in a 119-93 romp of Houston (9-2) and Pondexter was a key cog in a second-unit effort that featured his 13 points and matching totals by Beno Udrih and Jon Leuer.

“It’s not about going out there, scoring and getting the most minutes,” Pondexter said. “If you have to sacrifice and get a DNP (did not play – coaches decision), you’ve got to do it.  Our team just cares about winning, we don’t pay attention to the rest of that stuff. It was a total-team effort.  Everyone came out and competed really hard and we got it done.”

Pondexter’s season-high scoring performance came on 5-of-10 shooting from the field. He came out with energy and helped the Grizzlies capitalize off attacking the basket early on to keep Houston at bay.

 “It was good to see Quincy (Pondexter) get going,” said Grizz head coach Dave Joerger. “The idea was for him to just have some time. The last two games it was the plan to play with Tayshaun (Prince) a bit and get going with him. Then let Q (Quincy Pondexter) guard some little guys and get going.

“We need what he brings because he has a good shot and can guard the ball pretty well, especially against the guys that are good one-on-one players.”

In the league-rattling victory over the Rockets, Pondexter was one of Memphis seven double-digit scorers, along with Randolph, Courtney Lee, Mike Conley, Kosta Koufos, Udrih and Leuer. It was the first time the team has had seven scorers in double figures since Dec. 3, 2013 against the Phoenix Suns.

Prior to the highly anticipated confrontation with the Rockets, the two teams sported the best records (9-1)in the NBA, Houston unbeaten on the road. With the strong performance by Pondexter and his bench mates contributing mightily to the outcome, Memphis notched its 20th straight victory at the FedExForum. It also was the 11th straight home-court win when playing an opponent that had played the previous night.

The Grizzlies forced the Rockets to 21 turnovers giving Memphis 31 points total from those takeaways.  Pondexter was part of seven Grizz players that scored in double digits (Pondexter, Zach Randolph, Courtney Lee, Mike Conley, Kosta Koufos, Udrih and Leuer) marking the first time the team has had seven in double figures since Dec. 3, 2014 against the Phoenix Suns.

Joerger conjured a winning formula that called for Memphis to attack early.

“They just beat the heck out of us,” said Rockets head coach Kevin McHale.  “We turned it over early. They beat us to the ball. They turned us over and got easy baskets off of turnovers. They were on top of us and we had a lot of guys struggle with how fast they were on top of you offensively.”

NEXT: The Grizzlies faced the Raptors (8-2) at Toronto’s Air Canada Centre on Wednesday night. On Friday (Nov. 21), the Boston Celtics visit the FedExForum.

(Follow Kelley D. Evans on Twitter @KelleySthrnGrl.)

  • Written by By Kelley D. Evans
  • Category: Original

Tigers ride Tulane’s Green Wave to seventh victory

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A workman attitude served the University of Memphis Tigers well Saturday night as they dominated the Tulane Green Wave en route to a 38-7 victory at Yulman Stadium in New Orleans.

Riding the energy associated with clinching their first winning season since 2007, the Tigers (7-3) spoiled Homecoming Day for the Green Wave, with the defense forcing five turnovers

Grizz coach pulls final play from archives

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Experience is a good teacher and Memphis Grizzlies head coach Dave Joerger is a high-profile testament to that truth.

On Thursday night (Nov. 13) at FedExForum, Joerger dialed up a plan for the Grizzlies to overcome a 26-point deficit to the Sacramento Kings and emerge with a one-point victory (111-110).

  • Written by Kelley Evans
  • Category: Original

‘This one was amazing’

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Marc Gasol couldn’t believe both defenders stayed with him when he set a pick at the foul line on the final play.

Courtney Lee couldn't believe he was wide open under the basket for a reverse layup as the horn sounded.

‘Let’s hold overall judgment on the overall team’

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For many who await the tip-off of the University of Memphis men’s basketball season like a favorite holiday, losing is not part of the equation, especially with a Division 2, crosstown team as the opponent. Never mind that the game did not officially count.

So, what happened at the FedExForum on Wednesday night? By the numbers it was a 74-70 defeat in overtime to the Christian Brothers University Buccaneers.

Lee, Grizzlies prevail as Kobe fires away

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Grizz guard Courtney Lee, who was forced out of the starting lineup after suffering a concussion in the second game of the season, drew what has been a head-shaking experience for many through the years – guarding NBA superstar Kobe Bryant.

Lee has been back in the starting lineup the last three games. His defensive assignment played out Tuesday night at the FedExForum during a 107-102 Memphis victory over the L.A. Lakers.

 

  • Written by Kelley Evans
  • Category: Original