Memphis Grizzlies vs. Denver Nuggets Preview: Coming Home

Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

While Grizzlies' fans need to step back from the ledge, the actual team needs to step up to the plate.

A wise man once said, "There's no place like home..." and I tend to agree with him. No matter where you are or where you've been, there exists nothing quite like the feeling of coming home. For the Memphis Grizzlies, coming home couldn't have come at a better time.

Coming off a brutal 5 game road trip, one in which most fans were looking for a 4-1 record, the Grizzlies instead return home having gone 2-3 over that stretch, getting embarrassed multiple times, and looking tired and silly for a large part of it. They were blown out twice, lacked energy and focus, and saw a team go on a 14-0 run over the final four minutes of the game. Make no mistake about it, this one was tough.

It wasn't, however, the worst of times. Basketball is such a huge part of our city that we tend to rise a little too high with each win, and fall far too low with each loss. Grizzlies twitter was miserable (and if I'm honest, pretty funny) to read over the last few games, with all sorts of people ready to fire Dave Joerger and abandoned ship. Twice I saw the phrase, "this is the worst I've seen this team play in years." Really?! Really? Are we all so fickle that we've forgotten the stretch of 3 consecutive losses by 20+ points from last year? Am I mistaken, or did that 5 game losing streak earlier in this season not happen? Wherever it is that you are reading this, stop right now, and take three deep breaths. (Seriously, do it. I'll know if you don't.) All done? Good, now let's collectively take a step back from the ledge.

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As rough as the last few games have been, it isn't all bad news with Memphis. Two of the losses came at Golden State and at Portland, two teams with better records than the Grizzlies, and two of the toughest places to play in the entire NBA. Were there questions of energy and effort during each game of this trip? Yes, and as frustrating as it was, that's a bit expected from a team on a road trip that long this late in the season, especially for a team that has been pushing a rock uphill all season long.

Let's look at the positives though. No one got hurt again. That may seem sad that we can take solace in that, but with as many injury issues as we've had this year, it's big. They didn't get swept. 2-3 was an incredibly disappointed record for that trip, but you know what would have been worse? 0-5. (If you read those last two sentences in a Sean Tuohy voice, congratulations, you win today's game.) The two wins aren't what we expected, and really not what we needed, but it still puts us in a spot where we control our own destiny, so long as we win. We've not been eliminated from the playoffs, not even close, and as tough as running the table, or going 6-1 over the last seven games will be, it isn't impossible, and we've definitely seen this team do crazier things. Besides, it's not like we created a sitcom where we tell you exactly what's not going to happen in the pilot, then spend the last three full seasons building up to one outcome, only to completely trash it all in the first ten minutes of the finale just to tell you we lied to you in the pilot and end it all in a way everyone with rational human understanding hated.[1]

The point is, the Grizzlies still hold their own fate in their hands, and they can go a long way towards curing what ails them by picking up a win on their home court tonight against Denver, one of the only teams they beat on that last road trip.

Keys to the Game

Want it: Everyone was talking about the lack of hustle and effort during basically every game of that trip. It was undeniable that every man on the roster who got minutes looked tired, disinterested, or some combination of the two during games. That has to stop. The NBA season is long and grueling, and when you've gone through what this team has had to go through, it takes even more out of you than normal. But if this team is to get back to the playoffs, they'll have to come out ready to fight every single minute of playing time they have left. The bench does a pretty good job, but the onus is on the starting five to set the tone. If they come out strong, put up a decent lead in the first 7-8 minutes of the game before the bench comes in, it will tell us a good deal about how the rest of this game will go, and more importantly, who will come out on top.

Be Efficient: Aside from Courtney Lee, who's recovered from a recent shooting slump, no one on the team has been efficient in scoring. The Nuggets want to play a fast pace, up and down style basketball game. By no means should the Grizzlies do this, but the points will definitely be their for Memphis tonight, they'll need to do a good job of executing in the half court and finishing at the rim. If they can convert at a rate close to 50% tonight, they'll put themselves in good position for a victory.

Step Up: Throughout the last few seasons, we've seen adversity attempt to overtake the Grizzlies. Yet each time a foot is broken or an MCL sprained, someone has answered the bell, and put the team on it's back for stretches of games until the ship is righted. Tonight, we need someone to do it again. Whether it's Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol, Mike Conley, or even Vanilla Thunder, we need someone, probably two guys, to help this team pick itself up, and begin to carry it towards the playoffs.

I never do predictions whenever I get previews, because if Gandhi taught us anything, it's that making predictions is the quickest way to be wrong. And if I'm honest, I have no idea exactly which Grizzlies team will show up tonight. It could be the world-beaters who steal our hearts with every grit and grind victory, or the apathetic athletes who muddle through losses far too often. All I know is winning cures everything, and tonight, we have some things that need to be cured.



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[1] Yeah, still pissed....

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