There's an old saying that the people who know you best are also the ones who can hurt you the most. Rudy Gay learned that the hard way last night.
The Grizzlies used a combination of smart analytics and inside knowledge to force Gay into one of his worst performances. And fans in Toronto weren't afraid to let Gay know about it. Here's an excerpt from popular Raptors blog Raptors Republic on Gay's performance:
"Rudy Gay’s play was the worst I’ve seen from a Raptor in many a day. ... There was the completely selfish play where he’s not even looking to pass and his only aim is to score for himself. This was a game where you come out ... with the aim of proving that the mud being slung your way about being a selfish player is unwarranted. Instead, Gay reinforced all those beliefs and you can almost hear the Memphis locker room shaking their heads and being thankful for having Prince instead of Gay."
Yikes! Was it that bad?
It actually might have been worse.
That one play the Raptors blogger referred to perfectly summed up Gay's worst tendencies, the Grizzlies' awareness of them, and the inevitable turnover that ensued. Fourth quarter, Grizzlies up 79-77, Raptors with the ball and just under three minutes to play. After a short sequence, Gay ends up with the ball in his hands at the top of the key. The Grizzlies are perfectly happy with this, by the way. It's why the Grizzlies were comfortable with Zach Randolph guarding him.
Here was the setup: Randolph one-on-one with Gay, Mike Conley almost alongside (ignoring his man), Tony Allen focused on Gay (also ignoring his man). There are at least two guys relatively unguarded. It looks like a mess ... or does it?
It's actually exactly what the Grizzlies have in mind. They know the numbers -- per Synergy, in all ISO plays, Gay passes the ball just 8.3% of the time. Just 8.3 percent! And digging deeper, there's more. When he's ISO'd at the top of the key, as he is here, Gay drives left 45% of the time and right 22% of the time.
So the Grizzlies know it's not at all likely he's going to pass. Especially in this situation, late in the game, with a point to prove against his old team, he's not passing.
And they know he's probably going left. That's why Conley has basically left Kyle Lowry alone in the corner, wide-open. Against a different player, that'd be deadly. But not Gay.
Alan Anderson, he of the 5-for-5 fourth quarter to that point, is also open in the other corner. But he might as well be in Siberia for all the chance he has of touching the ball. Gay's tendencies hold true, just like the Grizzlies knew they would.
Sure enough, Gay drives left, directly into the waiting arms of Conley, who has essentially ignored Lowry this entire time. Note that even here Gay could dish it to Lowry for an open look -- a 3-pointer that could give the Raptors the lead -- but, as the scouting report will tell you, he's not going to pass. All five Grizzlies are within eight feet of Gay. Anything other than a pass is almost certainly going to be a bad outcome for the Raptors. Yet Gay can't resist driving deeper.
Gay belatedly figures out that passing to Lowry is the right move here, but it's far too late. Conley picked his pocket, forced the turnover, and took away the Raptors' best chance to win.
All night long, Gay looked to be pressing. He finished 5-for-15 from the field, with five turnovers, including that crucial one down the stretch. If the Grizzlies wanted to put together a game to show the very worst side of Gay, they did amazingly well. You'd struggle to find any NBA team wanting to trade for the Gay on display last night.
It's a classic example of analytics and scouting becoming crystal-clear on the court. The Grizzlies know Rudy Gay better than anyone else, and they baited him into making a critical mistake at a critical time. It's the ones who know you best that can hurt you the most.
This post was edited on 2/22 at 9:59 am