Last night at the Grindhouse, things got ugly for the Grizzlies, and some things came to an end while others continued. The Denver Nuggets came into town and, led by Danilo Gallinari's 26 points, proceeded to grind the Grizzlies down to a pulp.
The Grizzlies were out-rebounded 47-33, with most of those happening on the Nuggets' offensive glass, where they scooped up 21 offensive rebounds to the Grizzlies' 21 defensive rebounds. Got that? Out of every possible rebound under Denver's basket, the Grizzlies only rebounded half of them. The Grizzlies' ORB% was only 31.6%.
Really, though, this Grizzlies loss — only their second of the season, mind you — was a combination of being worn out from playing three games in four nights and an accumulation of things that have been going pear-shaped since the Grizzlies' victories over the Miami Heat and Oklahoma City Thunder last week.
Herewith, Why We Lost:
Bad rebounding. Already talked about this some, but the Nuggets, with JaVale McGee and Kenneth Faried, are as athletic and physical inside as anybody else in the league. They can jump, they can explode, and they can muscle — something the Grizzlies' big men can't really do. Zach Randolph has never been known for his vertical, and Marc Gasol rarely jumps higher than a phone book. (Side note: remember phone books? Weren't those weird?)
The much-vaunted Zoo Crew played like doodoo. Wayne Ellington had zero points, and only attempted one three-pointer. Marreese Speights scored 8 points on 7 shots, got 3 rebounds, and attempted zero free throws. Jerryd Bayless didn't do so hot either. Quincy Pondexter played the most minutes of any Grizzlies bench guy, scoring 6 on 7 shots and getting 2 rebounds. Hidden in the Grizzlies' winning streak is the fact that out of all the bench players — and they've all had moments of brilliance, to be sure — Speights hasn't looked right yet. His shot has been off, he's making bad decisions passing the ball, and just... looks bad. I don't know if he's struggling to come off the bench, much like he did last year after Zach Randolph returned from his knee injury, or if he's just not all the way up to speed yet, but Speights hasn't been good. One hopes that Darrell Arthur can immediately contribute once he gets back on the floor, but given how long it's been since he played meaningful NBA minutes — the 2011 Spurs series — that doesn't seem likely.
Tony Brothers Hates Us. Not a reason we lost, but look, man, this guy is turrble.
Who's the Man? The Grizzlies had a chance to put this game away in the last minute and they just couldn't get it done, allowing the Nuggets to come from behind and ice the game in the last little bit of the fourth quarter. If they're not holding a huge lead going into the final minute, this is still very much a team that needs to figure out how they're going to play in these "clutch" situations. At 2:14 to go, the Grizzlies led 92-88, and they allowed the Nuggets to end the game on a 9-0 run. Unacceptable. I never want to see "Tony Allen misses 2-point shot from 3 ft." in the last minute of a play-by-play as long as I live. Sure, Marc Gasol committed an offensive foul by having JaVale McGee pull on his jersey, but the Grizzlies should have stopped that run long before it sealed the game.
We knew they had to lose eventually. No team has ever gone 81-1, and with the Grizzlies' flaws revealing themselves even in some of the wins, it was only a matter of time before the team got tired and a good team — and make no mistake, the Denver Nuggets are a good team — was able to take advantage of it. But the way in which the Grizzlies lost last night reveals that for a team that sits on top of the current NBA power rankings, this group of guys still has some kinks to work out against teams with athletic, high-jumping frontcourts.
Going on an 8-game winning streak to start the season was great, but if this team can't put away a home game against a good team that comes down to the final minute, it doesn't matter who we beat in November: we will not get very far in the playoffs. Everything comes to an end. The Grizzlies need to figure out how to bring these games to an end by putting it away. (Hint: it probably starts with "Z" and ends with "Ach Randolph", not "R" and ending with "Udy Gay Isolation Set Play.")