USA TODAY Sports
The Grizzlies had Denver on the ropes, but came up completely punchless in the fourth quarter, falling 87-80 to the Nuggets.
Losing is never fun. It's never easy, and it's never enjoyable. When you lose to a team that has given you fits all season, in a game that you dictated the style and pace for 36 minutes, to a team that is HOT on your heels in the standings, it magnifies the pain of losing and makes it much more difficult to swallow.
It was a battle all night long. The Nuggets jumped out to an early lead, riding the broad
nose shoulders of Kosta Koufos. The Grizzlies shot 29% in the first quarter, and fell behind by as many as nine points, before ending it down 23-18. It looked like the Nuggets were going to try to run away with it in the second, but the Grizzlies closed the quarter on a 10-2 run, culminating in a Jerryd Bayless made layup just before the buzzer went off to end the half, to close the gap to 48-47.
In the third, Memphis came out and did what they had been doing for the last 15 games, they threw the handcuffs on the other team, and they outscored them, handily. The Nuggets came out and had three turnovers in the first minute and a half of the third, and had six turnovers and just four made buckets for only 10 points in the quarter. The Grizzlies entered the fourth quarter with an eight point lead at 66-58.
That's when an old friend decided to show up. The Rudy Gay Era, can't score in the fourth to save your life, turnover city Grizzlies reared their ugly heads. They had six turnovers in the quarter, and took almost a full four minutes to score their first points. Turnovers, poor shot selection, fouls (both legit and poorly called) would do them in, as they were doubled up 29-14 in the quarter.
- The Grizzlies were a terrible 35% from the field, but the free throw shooting was much improved from the last few games, 16-19 for 84%, a number much closer to what the team had been doing earlier in the season.
- Every Grizzlies starter missed at least 7 shots.
- Ed Davis, the athletic big that was supposed to help make the difference in this game, got 11 minutes of playing time.
- Tony Allen twice intercepted passes headed for guys wide open behind the three-point line. Both times he took long jumpers, and both times he missed.
Look, the Nuggets are a really good team, a team I said would beat us in the playoffs from the beginning of the season, a dark horse to win the West, and they've only lost three home games all season. This isn't the end of the world, but make no bones about it, this one stings. The Grizzlies should have won this game. You can point to poor officiating (and to be honest, the game wasn't called that badly, especially for a game that Joey Crawford called) all you want, but the Grizzlies have no one to blame but themselves, as they repeatedly shot themselves in the foot, and repeatedly shot the ball poorly, all night long.
This also puts a huge onus on the team to win the game tomorrow night in Utah, as a 2-2 road trip after winning the first two games in impressive fashion, would really put a damper on things and kill all the momentum from the Clippers win. As of now, the Grizzlies are still (technically) the 3rd seed in the Western Conference, and have still won 14 of their last 16 games. Let's hope the team can quickly turn the page from the epic fourth quarter collapse and right the ship against the Jazz tomorrow night in Utah.