Well, I've had a lot of time to think about it, and last night's loss still bothers me. I'm still not over it. Ever since Game 1 of last year's playoff series, there's just something about the games between the Grizzlies and the Los Angeles Clippers that puts me on edge.
I'm not sure what it is about these games that makes them so hard for me to watch. I'm not sure why every single one of these games between these two teams makes me want to run out into the front yard and light myself on fire, but they do. It's like I said in a Twitter reply to the Memphis Flyer's Chris Herrington last night:
@flyergrizblog I have never watched so many basketball games that are so emotionally draining and physically, viscerally stressful.— Grizzly Bear Blues (@sbnGrizzlies) April 14, 2013
Something about the Clippers makes me feel like I've got a couple of bags of Quikrete sitting on my chest, and that feeling doesn't go away for a while, even if the Grizzlies win the game. It's like a 48-minute panic attack. The Grizzlies look like they're in quicksand, and like whenever they take the floor at the same time as the Clippers, they instantly get dumber. Things they usually have no trouble doing seem impossible, and things they usually do with some degree of difficulty (especially in the paint) simply stop happening. It never looks like the Clippers are any better than the Grizzlies — it looks like the two teams are evenly matched. The problem is that the Grizzlies never seem to make the right decisions at the right times to win a 50/50 game.
Like last night.
In the first quarter, things started off poorly for the Grizzlies. They looked out of sync on both ends of the floor, struggling to score — Zach Randolph, in particular, didn't exactly get off to a great start — and turning the ball over far too often. After a while they finally started to settle into what, in Griz land, passes for rhythm on offense, and they managed to end the first quarter only trailing 24-23.
The second quarter saw two maddening things happening on a repeated basis: Keyon Dooling not playing very well for the Grizzlies, and DeAndre Jordan going absolutely nuts for the Clippers. No one was boxing Jordan out on offensive rebounds, and he racked up tip-in after tip-in. It's almost like if there's a super-tall, super-athletic dude hanging out around the basket, you should maybe stand between him and the basket so he can't, oh, I dunno, just drop the ball in it and score two points. This is the kind of dumb stuff I'm talking about: things that happen against the Clippers that, in retrospect, seem like dumb mistakes and/or bad play.
Around the 3-minute mark, this happened:
I can neither confirm nor deny that I (1) thought this was hilarious and (2) was really surprised that Z-Bo didn't get in trouble for it and Blake Griffin didn't get madder about it than he did.
The Grizzlies were making an awful lot of 3-pointers, kind of like the first half of The Game We Do Not Speak Of, and in a way it was serving the same purpose it did in that game (which I'm not going to talk any more about ever): it was covering over an awful lot of terrible play by the Grizzlies' bench. Chris Herrington agreed:
We're at 51-51 at the half. Feels like Griz fortunate to be even. Some good three-point shooting papered over lots of poor play.— Chris Herrington (@FlyerGrizBlog) April 14, 2013
The third quarter was a good one for the Grizzlies. They went on a nice run, but eventually Austin Daye came in, and, after making a couple of great plays on offense, let the Dessicated Corpse of Grant Hill, age 237, immediately come into the game and score 5 straight points, erasing a big Griz lead. I'm slowly coming around on Austin Daye, but c'mon, man. Grant Hill is old, and he absolutely schooled Daye until Lionel Hollins burned a timeout, presumably so he could scream unpublishable obscenities at Daye. The turnovers stopped, for a while, and the Clippers didn't score any second chance points in the third. The Grizzlies took a 5 point lead into the fourth quarter.
Ah, the fourth quarter. When everything stopped working, when the wheels fell off, when I started getting progressively more and more angry at the state of the game, the state of the world, everything.
The Grizzlies scored 14 points in the fourth quarter. Marc Gasol attempted exactly one shot somewhere around the 10-minute mark.
Gee, I wonder if those two things are related?
(They are absolutely related.)
I wonder why the Grizzlies couldn't score at all in the fourth? Is is maybe because they didn't get the ball to the best center in the league and instead took a bunch of crappy jumpshots or threw it in to a double-or-triple teamed Z-Bo in the post? Could that be it?
Needless to say, the Clippers scored 12 straight points and lead 86-77 halfway through the last quarter, and the Grizzlies never got it together after that. They even trailed 87-89 with 18 seconds left, and Mike Conley got a runner in the lane swatted out of bounds by DeAndre Jordan. (Remember him? He's the really tall dude who can jump really high who the Grizzlies always seem to forget is standing directly between them and the basket, and fail to adjust for that reality. It's like they think they can just will Jordan out of existence.) Possession after that? Crappy entry pass to Z-Bo, who got his shot blocked for the 4,000th time of the night.
After that, it was all fouls, and it was over.
I'm still mad about it. I will not stop being mad about it. I don't even know what it is about the Clippers that makes me hate them so much. I don't know how to explain it. But I hate watching the Grizzlies play them, and I especially hate watching the Grizzlies just piss away winnable games to the Clippers through failure to execute in a smart way (and through having crappy lineups of crappy players on the floor — remember when Dante Cunningham and Hamed Haddadi were on the floor of the 4th quarter of a Game 7 instead of Marc freaking Gasol?). Everything about it is frustrating. I didn't even think to mention how maddening it is that the Grizzlies have no answer whatsoever for Eric Bledsoe.
And now there's a good chance that we're going to have to watch the Grizzlies play the Clippers six or seven times, and that L.A. will have home court advantage. And I honestly don't know whether I have the strength to sit and watch the whole thing. I don't know if I can go through another playoffs like last years' playoffs.
Thanks to the big fat turd of a game the Grizzlies played last night, I guess we'll find out.