With Marc Gasol, arguably the Grizzlies best player, out, a loss to a team in playoff contention in the Western Conference wouldn't be too disappointing. That is, if the Grizzlies had not had this one in the bag only to throw it away with porous defense late and abysmal offense all night.
The Grizzlies stymied the Rockets offense in the first half, limiting them to just 32 points. Gasol's replacement in the starting lineup, Kosta Koufos, frustrated Dwight Howard early, causing 'Superman' to get a technical less than four minutes into the game. Koufos came out of the gate strong, grabbing six offensive rebounds and scoring six points in the first quarter. The big man finished with 13 points and 8 rebounds. Overall, he looked good in the starting lineup like he did many times for the Denver Nuggets, but he also looked gassed in the second half. However, that is to be expected with an uptick in minutes all of a sudden. His conditioning will improve with time.
The Grizzlies led by 12 entering the second half, and given the tenacious defensive effort, the game looked secure. But the Grizzlies came out and the second half and laid an egg on both ends of the floor. A season worst 10 points from Mike Conley did not help an already struggling offense. Without Gasol in to facilitate the offense through the elbow and post, Conley really needed to have a big night and carry even more of the scoring load than he already has been this year. It's safe to chalk this up to just an off night for Conley. He's been a beacon of consistency for the Grizzlies, and that's not likely to change even with Gasol out of the lineup.
Ed Davis, everyone's favorite talking point, looked good at times, but he struggled mightily with the all-bench unit in the second half. Ed was thriving when he was being used in the pick-and-roll. A mobile big like him is perfect as the roll man, and Head Coach David Joerger would be wise to set him up with more of those opportunities to give him a chance to succeed. Davis has the skills, he just needs to be used properly.
Davis' competition for the backup power forward spot, Jon Leuer, didn't have an exceptionally good game either. That competition will heat up with Gasol out of the lineup as both are fighting for their NBA futures.
Nick Calathes was underwhelming running the backup point guard position. He posted a line of 4 points, 3 assists, and 2 turnovers. Calathes simply doesn't make his presence felt very often when he's in the game, making his performances very forgettable. What little good he did do with the ball in his hands was cancelled out by a couple of bone-headed, unnecessary passes leading to turnovers. He continues to try too hard.
In the second half, the Grizzlies typically swarming defense completely forgot how to rotate, close out on three-point shooters, and rebound. Memphis was out rebounded 24-10 in the second half. It's safe to say the effort from the first half didn't carry over. The Grizzlies allowed 5 of the 6 Rockets made threes in the second half.
All in all, the Grizzlies faded about thirty minutes early tonight, and Joerger riding the all-bench lineup for so long when they couldn't defend anybody or hit a shot clearly hurt. Hopefully his lineup management will improve for the better soon. Gasol was clearly missed tonight, as nobody was able to take his spot facilitating from the high post.
Final thought: Get well soon, Marc.