Unicaja Malaga Tames the Grizzlies, 102-99Unicaja Malaga defeated the Memphis Grizzlies 102-99 in a back and forth game that showcased many exciting plays, ranging from soaring dunks to four point plays. This NBA Europe Live Tour game was played in Malaga, Spain at the Palacio de Deportes. Spanish rookie guard Juan Carlos Navarro scored a game-high 21 points for Memphis, shooting 5-8 from three point range. He got off to a slow start in his first NBA game but then he produced 19 second half points. Pau Gasol added 18 points, 10 rebounds and four blocked shots and Mike Miller had 17 points, nine rebounds and seven assists. Rookie lottery pick Mike Conley scored four points and had three assists in limited action. He showed the ability to drive around defenders and get to the hoop; the question is whether or not he can make the outside shot consistently and this performance (2-4 from the field) is too small of a sample to answer that right now. Conley always looks calm and in control and he plays with a high basketball IQ.
Davor Kus led Malaga with 20 points. He only shot 5-14 from the field but he scored 16 fourth quarter points, including three three pointers, one of which became a four point play. Kus played a key role as Malaga came back from a nine point deficit in the final period and then he shot 4-4 from the free throw line in the last 12 seconds to ice the victory. Malaga outrebounded Memphis 57-37 as three players--each of whom has some NBA experience--had double doubles: Marcus Haislip (18 points, 11 rebounds, four assists), Boniface Ndong (16 points, 12 rebounds) and Daniel Santiago (14 points, 10 rebounds). This the first game that an NBA team has lost to an non-NBA team this year in the NBA Europe Live Tour; last year, the 76ers and the Clippers each lost a game to a non-NBA team and, perhaps not coincidentally, neither of those teams made it to the playoffs. Yes, this is only Memphis' first preseason game but the Grizzlies do not look much like a playoff team, either.
The Grizzlies got off to a good start, taking a 20-10 first quarter lead but they quickly squandered most of that advantage and were only ahead 21-18 by the end of the quarter. Haislip did a lot of early damage with 10 first quarter points. In the second quarter it was Malaga's turn to build a double digit lead and then promptly lose it, as the Spanish team went up 44-33 before Memphis trimmed that deficit to 47-42 at halftime. Uncharacteristically for a FIBA team, Malaga did not shoot well from three point range in the first half but they made up for it by making more than half of their two point shots. Haslip led all first half scorers with 13 points, while Gasol and Rudy Gay each had eight points for Memphis.
The second half also so both teams go on extended runs to take double digit leads. Malaga struck first, hitting the Grizzlies with a barrage of three pointers and drives to go up 62-47 at the 7:26 mark. Memphis Coach Marc Iavaroni, who was clearly none too pleased with his team's first half performance, berated his players quite vociferously during this stretch. Malaga still led 69-59 with 3:19 to go in the period when Gasol converted a three point play to pull Memphis within seven points. The Grizzlies went on a 9-1 run in the final three minutes to take a 71-70 lead going into the fourth quarter.
Memphis rode that closing momentum in the opening minutes of the final period to go up 82-73 but Kus scored seven points in a 22 second stretch to all but obliterate that lead. Then the Grizzlies struck back with two Navarro three pointers, a soaring fast break dunk by Gay and a Navarro runner. Memphis led 92-83 with 5:31 to go and it seemed like the worst was over for the Grizzlies--but Memphis did not make another field goal until Gasol hit a turnaround jumper at the 2:01 mark, by which time Malaga was only down 94-91. The Grizzlies did not score on their next three possessions and three Ndong putbacks made the score 97-94 Malaga with just :19 left, enabling the Spanish team to seal the victory by making their free throws.
While home court advantage, FIBA rules and the fact that NBA teams are just starting their training camps are three factors that are in favor of the European teams in these games, one thing that definitely should be an advantage for the NBA teams is that the games last 48 minutes, not the 40 that FIBA teams play. NBA teams are not only deeper in talent than their FIBA counterparts but should be more accustomed to playing longer games. In the two previous games featuring NBA teams versus European teams on this tour so far, both NBA teams outscored their opponents in the second half en route to close wins. While Memphis did outscore Unicaja in the second half of this game, the Spanish team not only enjoyed a 32-28 fourth quarter edge but they also closed the game with a 19-7 run.
After the game, Iavaroni said, "Our help side has to be a lot better. We had chances to take charges and block shots and we fouled instead. Fouling kills good defense." Allowing 15 offensive rebounds, including the back breaking plays by Ndong in the last minute, also kills good defense. Memphis has some talented players but the team seems to be a bit soft and definitely lacks focus.
posted by David Friedman @ 8:04 PM