LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 07: Blake Griffin #32 of the Los Angeles Clippers hugs Randy Foye #4 during the overtime with the Memphis Grizzlies in Game Four of the Western Conference Quarterfinals in the 2012 NBA Playoffs on May 7, 2011 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. The Clippers won 101-97 in overtime to take a three games to one lead in the series. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
My emotions heading into this game, for some reason, were nearly nonexistent. I knew that it was going to be one (like the rest of the series) that came down to the last minute. I knew that Game 4 was arguably the most important game for the Grizzlies in the series - last night was the difference between going back to Memphis with a series score of 2-2 or 3-1.
Yet, it didn't do anything to my emotions - I'm probably in the minority when I say that. Perhaps it was because the game started at 10:30 PM Eastern, and I knew that watching the game was going to keep me up until 1:45 AM. I don't know the reason, but I got a hunch: I am merely emotionally exhausted from the emotional battle that this series is giving me.
More after the jump.
Look at the other series going on in the playoffs. All of them are either over (Thunder-Mavs, Spurs-Jazz, and heck - might as well say it. Any time is a good time for insulting New York sports (sorry Knicks fans): Heat, Knicks). The rest are 3-1 blowouts. Celtics looked rough at first, but are executing well and look poised to finish up. The Pacers are hopping on the fact that Dwight Howard isn't on the court. Kobe's doing his thing on the young and inexperienced Nuggets. The Sixers are taking advantage of the world without Derrick Rose.
Things are going as planned - things are happening in the first-round NBA world that are supposed to happen. And then, there's the Grizzlies-Clippers series. Irrefutably the "best" series going on right now. This title is taking it's toll on me.
Disappointed. Emotionally exhausted. Yet, in a way, expected. The game was a long, hard fought, physical game that came down to the last minute. Writing this now requires me to revisit these feelings, and I gotta admit - I'm frustrated, angry, and slowly losing hope. Now, the Grizzlies are facing elimination the rest of the way out. It's going to be tough (as if it hasn't been tough already).
The most frustrating thing? The Grizzlies are playing good basketball. After watching a majority of games this past season, I can say that Memphis is playing well - statistically, we're the best we've been all season. Players are performing and executing well. Better than a team down 3-1 to the Clippers, at least.
So why are we losing?
The Main Reason the Grizzlies Lost
Here, I could go into statistical analysis. I could review my notes that I kept throughout the game in order to write a better analysis. I could go basketball-sports-geek, act like I know what I'm talking about, and search to find "the statistic" that forced a Grizzlies loss. Sure, there's a time for that, and hundreds of analysts make a living off making calls like that.
But I'll put that part of me away right now - it's simply not needed. I'll say this not as a sports analyst, but as a fan:
The Grizzlies simply didn't have it.
The team that came out tonight wasn't the team seen in the first three games. Last night's team looked hopeless, exhausted, and straight-up beat. There was no "grit and grind' that you see from the Grizzlies that frustrate teams after two or three quarters.
Maybe I missed something. Maybe I went into it with a negative attitude. I don't know - but even really trying to look for it, I didn't see it. I didn't see that heart. Instead, the Grizzlies gave one or two possessions a body of hustle, but past that, things looked sloppy and chaotic. It looked like the Los Angeles crowd got in their heads - it was as if, for the first time, the Grizzlies looked at their opponents and thought, "Oh, crap. We're playing Blake Griffin and Chris Paul. They're superstars. We're not at their level."
What does this mean from here on out?
I fought it for a long time. I was leading the "over-rated!" chant long before he came to Los Angeles. But for the first time in my life, I'm going to say it: I respect Chris Paul. A lot. That guy can play basketball and, honestly, is the sole reason that the Grizzlies are down 3-1 right now. The Clippers aren't beating the Grizzlies: Chris Paul is beating the Grizzlies. Who he is on and off the court for the team is shaking the mindset of the Grizzlies.
I visited the thread over at ClipsNation for a bit last night to talk basketball with the Clippers fans. There was a lot of good discussion, but one thing a fan typed at the end of the gamethread has been echoing in my head all morning:
Honestly, that's it. That's simply it. The Clippers have the go-to guys that get it done when they need to get it done. The Grizzlies don't have that guy right now. From here, I can point any fingers at a specific player or coaching flaw. But I won't. It's not worth it to me. Without THAT guy, the Grizzlies aren't going to advance and will not win close games - especially in the playoffs.
Two days ago, I read the Game 4 recap of the Thunder-Mavs game from J.A. Sherman over at Welcome to Loud City. Though Sherman did not state it explicitly, I can't word it any better myself. Long story short: the Mavericks, in Game 4, bottled up Durant and trapped Westbrook behind the 3-point line so that he could not drive into the lane. I'll let J.A. take the rest:
"Instead of OKC trying to force either of those options to work, Plan C emerged in the form of James Harden. Harden stepped onto the court, seized the lime light, and rocketed the Thunder past the Mavericks in the 4th quarter.
Many have made the case that Harden is an All-Star caliber player and upcoming awards and recognition may confirm it. However, there is nothing so sweet as watching your player, who you believe to be worthy, step up and capture the moment as his own."
That's it. The Grizzlies have tons of players that are "deemed worthy," but don't execute when they need to execute. Call it poor coaching. Call it poor officiating. Call it inexperience in the playoffs. Whatever you call it, though, the Grizzlies still lose games.
With that, I'm going to revisit David Harnden:
The Grizzlies need a Chris Paul. Without one of those, we're not going to go anywhere.
Sorry if this recap is disheartening or shallow - maybe I should have gone deeper and looked into things more. But this is what I had in me, and I wanted to get it out. There's TONS of other things to talk about when it comes to this game - we'll save that for another piece.
Thanks guys - here's to Game 5.