Beno Udrih got waived by the Knicks earlier this season.
Let that sink in. He couldn’t stick with the woeful Knicks.
Makes you wonder even more about the Knicks, doesn’t it?
Because Monday night, Udrih and fellow Memphis point guard Mike Conley absolutely shredded Oklahoma City in the second game of this Western Conference playoff series. They put their heads down. They drove to the basket. They were the aggressors.
The winners, too.
Grizzlies 111, Thunder 105.
On a night when Memphis let it be known that it wasn’t going to go quietly into the postseason, it was the Grizzlies point guards who set the tone. Yes, this is a still a team that wins with its bigs, that relies on Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol. But those guys get much better shots when the point guards move the ball and press the issue.
Monday night, they played like their hair was on fire.
“They just kind of were running around loosely tonight,” Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook said, “and we let ’em. We let ’em do it.”
Conley finished with 19 points and a game-high 12 assists while Udrih scored 14 points on 6-of-8 shooting. At one point in the second half, he nearly had more points than Kevin Durant.
He got cut by the Knicks.
“Those guys being aggressive is a big key for us,” Memphis coach Dave Joerger said of his point guards. “If we just stand there and let them attack us … ”
He never finished that thought about the Thunder, but I suspect if he did, it would’ve gone something like this — “We’ll be checking in uniforms next weekend.” An aggressive Thunder team is a hard-to-beat Thunder team.
“It’s about who attacks who and who is aggressive,” Joerger said.
One of the best things going for the Grizzlies in Game 1 was Conley putting the ball on the floor and going to the goal. They made their big second-half run when Conley started doing that. Whether it was Westbrook or his backup Reggie Jackson, the Thunder struggled to stay in front of Conley, and when they let him by, the backside help wasn’t always there.
That kind of aggressiveness from the point guard position creates a conundrum for a defense. Do the bigs help off Randolph and Gasol when Conley or Udrih break through the first line? Do they leave the Grizzlies’ two biggest offensive weapons and give that point guard an easy assist?
No wonder the Grizzlies decided to press the issue even more in Game 2.
“We wanted to be aggressive as guards,” Conley said.
Joerger admitted that it wasn’t a matter of scheme. It wasn’t a matter of him going onto the chalkboard and drawing up a bunch of new sets and plays. It was a matter of attitude.
Conley and Udrih had to embody that Memphis grit-and-grind mentality.
“Those guys, they put their heads down,” Joerger said. “They got around the show guy. They got in the paint.”
That wasn’t a surprise with Conley. He’s given a lot of team fits, including the Thunder.
He got cut by the Knicks.
“Beno was a guy that came in with the motto, ‘You stay ready,’” defensive stalwart Tony Allen said. “He was huge for us.”
Conley said, “I can’t say enough about him. When the point guards are making plays for our team, we go to another level. We definitely wanted to try to do that tonight.”
The Grizzlies did, and now the Thunder is going to have to figure out what to do with those point guards.
Maybe they should hope that backup Nick Calathes gets his drug suspension overturned. He couldn’t possibly be any more of a handful than Pistol Pete Udrih.
Jenni Carlson: Jenni can be reached at 475-4125. Like her at facebook.com/JenniCarlsonOK, follow her at twitter.com/jennicarlson_ok or view her personality page at newsok.com/jennicarlson.