After last night's painful National Championship game left me wanting to rinse my eyes out with dish soap, I welcomed the return of the NBA and the Memphis Grizzlies tonight, ready to drink from the refreshing well of professional basketball once more.
Turns out, after watching the Grizzlies stumble to a 82-81 defeat courtesy of the Los Angeles Clippers, said well wasn't quite ready to drink yet. All told, it probably could've used a good boil first, and I may or may not have contracted dysentery; in short, that game was nasty.
And yes, whatever the hell it is that happened at the end of the game made the chance for a last-second shot pretty unlikely -- we'll get to that in a second -- but it shouldn't have come to that anyway; the Grizzlies dropped this one at home because it's late in the season and sometimes along the way, terrible games just happen.
More after the stumble.
The basics: Memphis shot poorly from everywhere: 39.5 percent from the floor, 1-9 on threes, and 12-18 from the free-throw line. They were seemingly beaten to every rebound in the second half and, although they forced a fair share of turnovers (18), the ball wasn't agreeing with many folks on this night as the game was riddled with fumbles, mistimed passes, and guys on both sides looking out of sorts in general.
The first half saw the Grizz get off to a quick start in the first and a swoon back a bit in the second, allowing the Clippers to be within striking distance as the second half began.
Poor shooting nights happen too, but Memphis played most of the second half like their offensive half-court was made out of quick-drying cement. Everything was just too fast, too rushed. It seemed as though, as another one of their leads slipped away, the Grizzlies wanted to solve all problems as quickly as possible, get this game over with and go on with their lives. It's hard to blame them, and yet, it was ugly to watch such a usually methodical team on the offensive end go into hot potato mode when things got tight.
On that call in the final seconds, I do not remember another time I've seen a charge and block called, a referee discussion and the resulting conclusion reached is a double foul. Oh, so you mean that while Eric Bledsoe did indeed fly out of control into Tony Allen, barreling him over, a clear offensive foul, Allen was also guilty of a block? At the same time? A total botch-job by the officials here, who really seemed to have no idea whatsoever as to how to handle a situation in which they probably should've taken one of the forks in the road, instead of simply heading straight into the oncoming tree.
The resulting tip at half-court that sealed the game for L.A., won by Chris Kaman, had Marc Gasol furious and, after watching the replay, probably with good reason; the ball was thrown in a way that it moved away from both players and toward the direction of the official who threw it. Now, if your tip-throwing skills aren't so great, deciding on whether to call a play either a block or a charge -- but not both, you see -- would've helped to mask this problem instead of, you know, bringing it to the forefront on the game's final possession.
But as I said, the Grizzlies lost this one because as nice as it would've been to be able to swiftly sweep the Clippers under the rug and get on with these final four games, it didn't work that way. Too many Grizzlies had off nights and while the energy was there, it was more like a "Shit I didn't do any of my homework last night so I'm going to try and finish it all in ten mintues"-kind of energy. That's where mistakes happen. More attention to detail was demanded of the Grizz, and they just weren't up to it. Credit Los Angeles; they never folded up shop in any of the Grizzlies' attempts to put distance between the teams. The Clips kept attacking the basket -- Memphis let far too many guys into the lane -- through sloppy play of their own, but in the end they hit more shots -- Mo Williams had a couple big ones -- and won a jump-ball that was thrown into an oncoming Caribbean trade wind. Kudos to them.
The Grizzlies are now a half game behind New Orleans, who plays host to Houston tonight, for the seventh seed. This was a bad loss, a bad time to come up misfiring on many cylinders; it reminds us that the Grizzlies are in the eighth spot for a reason, and the times when things aren't going smooth are not the times to play reckless. Sometimes bad games, bad shooting, and bad tip-offs -- too a lesser extent, probably -- just happen.
This was a bad time for all three, but a part of you had to figure this three game Clipper series wouldn't be as easy as it sounded, right?