The Memphis Grizzlies have had trouble offensively on a consistent basis over the past few years. Despite some premier offensive talents, the execution and the play-calling has never been all that great. Tonight, we saw the Grizzlies at their best and at their worst on the offensive end. They got out into transition, they fed Zach Randolph the ball in the post, they got themselves some open looks from behind the arc and they dominated the Rockets with efficient offense for most of the second quarter.
But then, in the second half, and mainly the final minute of the game and in the entire overtime period, the Grizzlies failed to get any kind of good look from the field, which cost them the game. The Grizzlies had their chances to take the lead in the fourth period and they had ample time and opportunities to get off a good look in overtime to tie the game or take the lead.
I'm not saying this loss is on Lionel Hollins or any of the coaches for not properly reading the situations the Grizzlies were in, but I think there were better options at the time. The players are more to blame, if you ask me, as almost everybody that touched the ball late was hesitant with the ball or couldn't hold onto it. A heady Rockets team deserves credit for defending the Grizzlies well. They stripped Marc Gasol twice in key situations and Shane Battier did a great job of keeping the ball out of Rudy Gay's hand on what turned out to be the final play of the game (also, credit Kyle Lowry for an unbelievably smart play at the end of the game to save the ball from going out of bounds to sling it down the floor, killing all the time on the clock).
But the Grizzlies could have done better. This team has three goto scorers that can get their own shot on their own and are effective when spotting up but there was no execution late and an off balance three from Mike Conley was the Grizzlies only chance of taking the lead and it rimmed out. This was a game the Grizzlies needed to win. The Rockets are a division rival and they are just three games behind them in the overall standings in the Western Conference. This was the final meeting between the Rockets and Grizzlies this season and the Rockets finish the year with a 3-1 advantage.
Notes on the game after the break.
- Zach Randolph was a monster in this game, as he usually is against the defensive and rebounding inept. 22 points and 17 rebounds for the deserving all-star. He got his normal filling on putbacks thanks to his seven offensive rebounds and he mixed in a few nice post moves as well. Those who were unsure or unaware of Randolph's all-star capabilities in Houston saw why Z-Bo has more than a legitimate case for a spot on the roster.
- That being said, the Rockets have their own should be all-star in Kevin Martin, who was robbed of his spot by the coaches that selected Manu Ginobili. Martin displayed his entire arsenal of offensive capabilities in this one. He had a pair of three's, made a couple of tough fading jumpers and perhaps his most valuable skill, catching his defenders off balance and drawing contact, earned him 15 trips to the free throw line. Martin's stroke was flawless at the line, as he knocked in all 15 of them while on his way to a 31 point night. Add in six boards, three steals and a pair of helpers and that's an all-star kind of performance if you ask me. I still believe Randolph should have been one, too, but Martin definitely should have been on the roster over Ginobili.
- Rudy Gay has made significant strides this season but this was one of those games where you could point out key moments in the game and say "that's why he's not on that all-star level yet." Seven of 19 shooting for Gay, who finished with just 17 points. His 11 rebounds were a nice touch, but his shooting touch was off and when the Grizzlies needed a bucket, either he wasn't trusting himself enough to want to the ball or his teammates didn't trust him enough to make it a point to get it to him. Again, I'm not saying Rudy hasn't made a big time jump this season, but this kind of performance (the inefficient shooting ones in which he fails to make up for it in crunch time) that keep him out of the festivities on all-star sunday. That doesn't mean he shouldn't be in the dunk contest, though.
- Marc Gasol played a healthy 39 minutes in this game and he pulled down a grand total of one rebound. You can argue that Gay came skying in to steal a pair, but still, that's a crazy stat for the usually stout Gasol. He did have 19 points on 15 shots, which is good, but he lost the ball twice in the final minute of the game, costing the Grizzlies a chance at a regulation win.
- Shane Battier is such a great basketball player. His shot may be leaving him (he was 1-of-6 from deep on the game and he's shooting a tad below his career average on the year) but he makes up for it in almost every way possible. He'll have bad games, when his shots aren't dropping and his man beats him by a step or two on most plays, but he put together a masterful performance in this one. With his bigmen (read: Luis Scola and Chuck Hayes) struggling to contain Zach Randolph on the boards, Battier stepped up on the glass, pulling down 13 rebounds, many of which came when the Rockets needed to guarantee themselves a possession. Add in three helpers and four blocked shots and some expert defense on Rudy Gay and you have yourselves the best individual performance of this game, in my opinion, with just five points to show for it.
- I thought the Grizzlies had some very good defensive stretches in this game. When Darrel Arthur and Tony Allen were on the floor together, they made some big plays defensively. But too many breakdowns late led to a Rockets comeback and not enough offensive precision kept the Grizzlies from regaining control of the game.
- Kyle Lowry is a nice player. I know this franchise has invested a lot in Mike Conley and I think I'd rather have Conley over the next six or so years, but Lowry can play. He's shooting a career high 36% from three-point range, a necessary addition to his game to start for a team like Houston, and he is one of the better rebounding point guards in the league. He had nine points, eight boards and six helpers in this one.
- Speaking of Conley, yeah, lets not talk much about that two-of-16 performance tonight for six points. He would have gotten a pass had he hit that three to give the Grizzlies a one point lead with six seconds left in overtime, but man, without that shot, this was one of the worst single performances of the year for the Grizzlies.
- it looked like Greivis Vasquez tried a little floater after hitting one the other night. This one missed, but if Vasquez can get that shot down, giving him at least one consistent offensive weapon, he's not the worst player in the world. Seven points, six boards and three helpers in 19 minutes for the rookie.
Next up, the Grizzlies face off against the Lakers at home on Monday. This is a big game for the Grizzlies, who are a few games back of Portland in the hunt for the eighth seed. Despite their victory over the Hornets last night, the Lakers will still be looking to get back on track following back-to-back losses to the Spurs and Celtics. We'll see if Memphis really is a playoff caliber team that night.