Thursday night, the visiting Memphis Grizzlies exploded in the second quarter, outscoring the Phoenix Suns 31-15. The Suns returned the favor in the third quarter, outscoring the Grizzlies 32-16. The reason behind the Suns' offensive explosion—Goran Dragic. The 6'3" ball handling pupil of the great Steve Nash.
At one point during the third quarter, Dragic had scored 15 points—easily outscoring the Grizzlies in the third quarter single-handily. Grizzlies' starting point-guard, Mike Conley, Jr., couldn't stop Dragic as Dragic scored basket after basket. Dragic repeatedly drove past Conley, using his height advantage wisely, and layed the ball into the hoop. Conley looked extremely frustrated before being placed on the bench in the third. Dragic continued his madness as he scored over defensive-stalwart Tony Allen and Grizzlies' sixth-man Jerryd Bayless. The latter would be assigned to Dragic for the remainder of the game.
Former NBA player and current Grizzlies' commentor, Brevin Knight, stated that the Grizzlies needed to do something about Dragic. Knight admitted that if he were playing and a guy was taking over the game like that, he would do anything to stop him. Perhaps, Jerryd Bayless, the former Arizona Wildcat and Phoenix native playing in front of 41 friends and relatives, heard Knight's admission.
During an easy transition basket opportunity, Dragic was tackled by Jerryd Bayless from behind as Bayless rolled over Dragic. The crowd roared in a frenzy. Everyone anticipating a flagrant foul being called. That call went unanswered. Adding insult to injury, Bayless confidently walked over the top of Dragic as Dragic lay on the gym floor. Immediately, Dragic's teammates jumped to his defense. Notably, one of the Morris twins (Markieff and Marcus) walked directly to Bayless in a confronting matter. Morris barked at Bayless; Bayless returned the animosity. Protecting Bayless, Zach Randolph confronted Morris. Morris could be heard swearing and yelling about the incident. Instead of swearing or yelling back, Randolph smiled and whispered into Morris' ear.
Although the content of what Randolph said to Morris is unknown, Morris didn't like it. He continued to swear in an aggressive matter as the NBA officials gave two technicals, one to Morris, one to Randolph.
This chippiness sparked something inside of the Grizzlies.
A few minutes later, the Grizzlies' Ed Davis received a technical for blocking a shot attempt by P.J. Tucker after the whistle had blown. The Suns' P.J. Tucker received a technical in the fourth quarter. As the technicals continued, Bayless's fuse was lit as he scored like a madman during the fourth quarter in his hometown. He scored 13 out of 17 points in the fourth quarter alone. Durring the barrage, Bayless was yelling at someone in the crowd during the entire fourth quarter. They were igniting his flames.
There was a noticeable shift between the third and fourth quarter. The Grizzlies' energy picked up. The negativity and intensity of the moment after Bayless fouled Dragic intensified. Suddenly, this game had playoffs-level intensity. During the third quarter, the Grizzlies were watching Dragic single-handily take over the game. During Dragic's scoring output, the Suns went on a 14-0 run. But after that foul, after those technicals, the Grizzlies were energized.
Mike Miller, Grizzlies' shooting guard, hustled after every ball. Davis set solid picks freeing up the Grizzlies' shooters. Randolph worked masterfully in the paint, confusing the Suns' big men. Bayless came off aggressive picks and stopped-and-popped numerous daggers to kill the Suns' comeback win.
After being embarrassed in that third quarter, the Grizzlies found their purpose. While many teams fall victim to the physicality and psychology of intense games, the Memphis Grizzlies excel in it. That fire will serve them well in future games.
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