This wasn't quite the way the Memphis Grizzlies expected to come out of the All-Star break, especially considering they were playing the short-handed Denver Nuggets who were playing without Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups and had only eight active players.
Simply put, the Grizzlies came out flat, turning the ball over 13 times in the first half while allowing 61 points to a Nuggets team who forgot that they were supposed to lay down and let the Grizzlies walk all over them. This one looked over early, with Ty Lawson leading the charge. Lawson finished the game with 21 points, 7 assists, 5 rebounds and 6 steals. He absolutely abused Mike Conley. In fact, the entire Denver team had their way with the Grizzlies offensively, scoring 102 points through three quarters and finishing the game with five players scoring 15 or more points. Memphis cut the score score to 13 points by the time the final buzzer went off, but really it wasn't as close as the score indicates.
The Nuggets simply had their way with the Grizzlies on the offensive side of the ball. Through three quarters the Nuggets had scored 102 points on 54,8% shooting, 11-of-22 shooting from beyond the arc, and a 22:8 assist-to-turnover ratio. A terrible defensive showing by the Grizzlies.
Memphis also had a tough time holding onto the ball, turning it over 21 times (18 TOs through three quarters). Of course, when you're allowing guys like Lawson and J.R. Smith to get out on the break with turnover after turnover you're in for a long night.
Smith made the Grizzlies look inept defensively from the perimeter. He ended up making 6-of-11 threes, including a 33-foot bomb at the end of the 3rd quarter. The Grizzlies struggled to keep Smith and the Nuggets in check from the 3-point line. On paper, their 12-of-28 showing from beyond the arc may not look like a hindrance, but Memphis simply had no answer early on for Denver's offensive assault.
Memphis entered the evening tied for 8th in the Western Conference with the idle Utah Jazz, and now find themselves 2 games behind the Denver Nuggets for the 7th seed. With this loss, the Grizzlies move to 12-19 on the road, and have now lost 8 straight games at the Pepsi Center.
WHAT I LIKED
Tony Allen played some inspired basketball after being named the starting small forward with Rudy Gay out over the next month. Allen went for a team-high 26 points on 8-of-15 shooting with 8 rebounds, 2 assists and a steal in 31 minutes. Also of note, Allen was aggressive, getting to the line 14 times, hitting 10 of those attempts. Defensively, however, he struggled against Smith. Still, he was the most impressive Grzzly in the first half and helped to lead a mini second-half charge. A nice outing by Allen, something hopefully he'll build off of.
O.J. Mayo made his presence felt, scoring 21 points on 8-of-14 shooting. Baby steps. From beyond the arc he hoisted 7 shots, making just 2 of those attempts. He also had just 1 assist to 3 turnovers. Credit Mayo, however, for returning to relevance in a game which he could easily have mailed in early on. Again, baby steps with Mayo.
The Grizzlies were efficient from the floor. They hit 42-of-78 shot attempts (53.8%) and got to the free-throw line 31 times. It was also nice to see that while they were playing catchup from the jump, they didn't simply just hoist 3-pointers all night, taking just 10 attempts. Offensively they made an effort. It was simply the fact that they couldn't stop the Nuggets on the defensive side of the ball and coughed it up far too many times to remain competitive.
Jason Williams went 0-for-1 from the floor in 16 minutes, but still manged to dish 9 dimes and only turn the ball over once. Talk about efficiency. I hope Conley was watching!
WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE
Mike Conley was terrorized by Ty Lawson on the defensive side of the ball. He also struggled to get the half-court offense going. Conley dished just 3 assists in 30 minutes while turning the ball over 4 times. It seemed as if his struggles on the defensive side of the ball carried over to the offensive side. Conley needs to show that he can stay in front of quicker points like Lawson on defense. A rebound game against Luke Ridnour on Wednesday should help.
Hasheem Thabeet picked up his first foul in 40-seconds of play. He had 2 points, 3 rebounds and 3 fouls in 9 minutes. I know the Grizzlies are working on shipping Thabeet, but he needs to play as if he still wants to be here. There is no guarantee that he'll be moved, so put a little effort into your game, Thabeet. Considering that the Nuggets were void of actual size, Thabeet did not make his presence felt.
Marc Gasol had just 2 rebounds and both of those came on the offensive side of the ball. He could not figure out how to keep his body in front of Nene. In the final minutes of an already lost game Gasol started to show his aggressive side, taking the ball to the basket and forcing Nene to foul out with 4-plus minutes remaining. Unfortunately, it was too little too late. A flat game out of the break for Gasol.
Again, the Grizzlies have struggled on the road this season, winning just 12 of 31 games away from home. They head into Minnesota on Wednesday night, and if they want to remain as serious playoff contenders they'll have to start to play playoff-style basketball on the road.