Three-Pointers: Grizzlies rout Heat thanks to unexpected Ellington barrage
By Ben Golliver
The Memphis Grizzlies blew out the Miami Heat 104-86 at home in a marquee match-up between teams that entered Sunday’s game with one loss each.
• The story of the Heat’s season, entering Sunday, had been its electric offense and the constant mismatches created by its super small ball approach. Riding the strong combination of LeBron James’ all-around brilliance and extraordinarily unselfish ball movement as a team, the Heat had wracked up the No. 1 rated offense league-wide, scoring 119 or more points on three occasions during their first four games. Miami’s bench has been a star-studded locale late in games, with James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh often enjoying early exits when opponents haven’t been able to keep games competitive.
That was the case again at the FedEx Forum, only this time Erik Spoelstra was pulling his starters because the Grizzlies were hitting threes at such a breathtaking clip that a Heat comeback wasn’t in the cards. Wayne Ellington, of all people, was Miami’s undertaker, knocking down a career-high seven threes on 11 attempts. Acquired in a summer trade with the Timberwolves, Ellington finished with a game-high 25 points and posted a staggering +36 in his 27 minutes. Ellington’s out of nowhere explosion — he had scored just 26 points combined during Memphis’ first five games — was emblematic of a near-perfect night for the Grizzlies, who shot 14-for-24 from deep as a team and rode an enthusiastic home crowd to a cake win.
• Something had to give down low: Miami started two finesse players, Chris Bosh and Shane Battier, while Memphis went with its bruising tandem of Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph. This was an obvious mismatch in beefiness in Memphis’ favor, but they did well not to dwell on it or force the issue, instead spreading the ball around and running their offense without unnecessarily overemphasizing the interior. That approach kept Miami’s defense guessing, and it allowed Randolph to get off for 18 points and 12 rebounds, including five offensive, without undercutting into Rudy Gay (21 points on 17 shots) or Mike Conley (18 points on 11 shots). Gasol was surprisingly quiet from a scoring standpoint, with just two points on one-for-six shooting, but his interior passing skills, the best in the league at his position, were invaluable. He finished with 10 rebounds and six assists, good for a +20 in 32 minutes. The Grizzlies’ starters routed the Heat’s; that doesn’t happen every night.
Miami couldn’t match Memphis’ scoring balance because Wade and Ray Allen were both off, combining to shoot 5-for-22 from the field. Without that perimeter punch, the Grizzlies, who had the No. 7 team defense in 2011-12, were able to pay more attention to James, who still finished with 20 points, 10 rebounds and six assists. Having Rudy Gay, a three with good size and length, helps a lot in making James work, as does the paint-clogging presence of Gasol and Randolph. The Heat’s poor shooting simply couldn’t keep the court spaced. Footnote credit to Grizzlies forward Quincy Pondexter, who played active defense in his 19 minutes.
• This is less a fully fleshed out thought and more of a, “Wow, did he just…” Still, give this a look. Grizzlies reserve guard Jerryd Bayless, signed as a free agent this summer, scored five points on 2-for-3 shooting in 16 minutes. His night was a bit uneven, as he had three turnovers. One of those, though, will be remembered for far longer than the others.
After foolishly picking up his dribble well outside the three-point line with the shot clock winding down, Bayless threw a no-look crosscourt pass that was easily intercepted by Allen. Rather than quit on the play after his mistake, Bayless gave chase in transition from across the court, streaking all the way down to meet Allen at the basket, where he timed his leap perfectly to cleanly swat the lay-up attempt. The Grizzlies immediately turned defense into offense, with Ellington knocking down one of his seven threes before Miami could recover, pushing Memphis’ fourth-quarter lead to 12 points. There would be no looking back for the Grizzlies. Only looking up, at the jumbotron, to catch the replay of Bayless’ sensational block.