It's post-Thanksgiving in the sports world and with one game left in November, the Memphis Grizzlies have the NBA's best record (11-2) after back-to-back-to-back home wins against the Los Angeles Lakers, Cleveland Cavaliers and Toronto Raptors.
The trifecta came Wednesday (Nov. 28) night with a 103-82 drubbing of Toronto. And with Detroit's lowly pistons at the FedExForum on Friday, the Grizz have a good shot to take their winning roll into December.
In the Grizzlies locker room on Friday (Nov.23), there was no big celebration. The mood was jovial and the players were thankful.
"Hey Marc (Gasol), thanks for having my back out there man," Memphis forward Zach Randolph said, lacing his shoes, preparing to speak with the media.
"No problem, that's what we do," said Gasol. "We have to have each other's back.
The Grizzlies had just defeated the Los Angeles Lakers 106-98 in front of a sell-out crowd at FedExForum.
Randolph recorded 17 points and 12 rebounds. Gasol scored 14 points, with a game-high eight assists.
Head Coach Lionel Hollins liked what he saw and heard.
"They talk a lot to each other," Hollins said. "The spirit and camaraderie is so much better than it has been since I have been here. It is just their individual maturity and their individual commitment to each other."
The Grizzlies outscored the Lakers 40-24 in the paint, holding Los Angeles to an opponent's season low. All five starters were in double digits and Memphis forced 18 turnovers on the Lakers.
In the first quarter, the Lakers were leading by one until Memphis went on a 21-6 run, building a lead they never relinquished.
Rudy Gay led the Grizzlies with 21 pints followed by starting point guard Mike Conley's 19.
"I think it's very dangerous to have so many different options," Conley said. "We have so many games, a lot of games. Some nights it's Marc Gasol's night, some nights it's Rudy Gay's night. You never know who's going to step up and it's hard to scheme for that and prepare for that when you have so many guys who can come up big at the end."
The Lakers' superstar guard Kobe Bryant finished with 30 points, but had to face the defense of Grizz guard Tony Allen and Quincy Pondexter.
"Tonight we came up here and we faced a really, really tough team. And they played extremely well," said Bryant. "They played like a team that has the best record in the Western Conference. I felt like we did a pretty good job matching their intensity. I felt like our bench came in and played pretty well."
Bryant said he thinks the world of Tony Allen.
"We've had a lot of battles in the past. Sometimes I've got the best of him; sometimes he's got the best of me. I love going against him. He's a phenomenal player."
The Lakers came in with newly appointed head coach Mike D'Antoni, who said credit had to be given to a well-player Grizzlies team.
"At the same time, we have to play a certain way and buck up a little bit. To beat a team on the road like this, you have to play every possession hard, and I don't think we are there yet."
'Come out and play'
Camaraderie carried over to Monday's game (Nov. 26) as the Grizzlies defeated the Cavaliers 84-78. It was no easy win, with Conley missing his first game of the season battling flu-like symptoms. Jerryd Bayless started in his place.
The Grizzlies trailed most of the first half, going into the locker room down 47-42.
Cleveland out-rebounded Memphis 41-33 and it wasn't until the third quarter that Memphis started bringing its tough game. The Grizzlies outscored the Cavaliers 22-9 in the fourth quarter and forced six turnovers down the stretch.
Randolph and Gasol both finished with 19 point. Randolph's 11-game, double-double streak ended as he collected eight rebounds.
"We have got to come out and play," Randolph said. "We knew coming into this game it was going to be a tough game. Guys didn't play too well tonight. It was a fight. It was a fight to the end. Jerryd hit big shots. Marc hit big shots. We got the win at the end of the game."
Gay finished with 15 points while Bayless chipped in nine points and six assists.
Cavaliers center Anderson Verajao finished with 15 points and 22 rebounds, recording his fifth consecutive double-double.
Those stats caught the attention of Randolph.
"Verajao is a motor," Randolph said. "He is moving non-stop. He reminds me of myself a couple of years ago. You have to give him a lot of credit."
Said Verajao: "Coming from him it's a big thing....He's a very good player. We both can't jump, but we can rebound. It's all about going after every rebound, treating every shot as a miss."