Every game counts.
And with playoff implications on the line, the Memphis Grizzlies blew a winnable game against the Los Angeles Lakers. It's not the end of the world and this teams chances to become a third seed haven't completely disappeared, but with the injuries the Denver Nuggets have faced within the past two weeks, this would be a nice time to gain ground on the competition.
With that said, there's no reason this team shouldn't have won this game. I could easily point out the missed shots, poor turnovers or some of the shoddy defensive rotations, but those are things that happen in almost every game. Instead the thing that stuck the most and could've swung the game was the way Lionel Hollins' coached.
Despite his flaws, Hollins has been a great coach this year; probably a Coach of the Year candidate. And like all other coaches, when you're winning things are fine, but when you lose the flaws of the coach are shown. Tonight was one of the those nights for Hollins.
Obviously his play calling toward the end of the game was a huge downfall. After seeing him piece together several plays in the clutch versus the Oklahoma City Thunder and the lack of a true isolation player (Rudy Gay), the consensus was that end of the game plays would be to run a solid play to get a shot for the best player. With two chances to tie the game in the last 10 seconds of the game, Hollins just let Mike Conley go 1-on-1 against Steve Blake. The result of that = 0-2 and losing the game. The second shot Conley put up was solid, but between the missed call by the refs and Dwight Howard patrolling the paint, there could have easily been a better option. The first shot was outright terrible.
After a timeout, Hollins failed to draw a play that could've resulted in a better shot for Conley or finding a better option. Of course there's Conley's game-winner against the San Antonio Spurs from a few days ago that gives Lionel Hollins a solid reason to let Mike iso and decide, but this situation could've obviously been handled better.
Another down point for Hollins were his rotations.
Unfortunately this is no shock to Grizzly fans. Hollins' rotations are part of the reason why the team was eliminated in the first round of the playoffs last year. It's apart of the reason why the Grizzlies didn't stand a chance in Game 7 versus the Los Angeles Clippers.
But tonight, Hollins questionably played the cards wrong. With the regular season near over with, the rotation is pretty much set. The starters get their normal minutes while four or five reserves put their imprint on the game. There were questionable moves throuxghout the game that could have swung the momentum in a different direction.
First and foremost, Jon Leuer played 4:45 in the fourth quarter. Ed Davis and Darrell Arthur played a combined 2:57.
Another problem was Tony Allen and Tayshaun Prince playing no more than 20 minutes a piece while Austin Daye and Quincy Pondexter played an equal amount of minutes. Yes, I know, floor spacing is probably why, but Daye/Pondexter combined for 8 total points on 12 shots. The defense that Pondexter provided, Allen could've made up and Prince is just an overall better player than Daye.
Last, but not least, Marc Gasol re-entering the ball game in the 4th quarter with two minutes remaining on the clock shouldn't an ideal situation for the Grizzlies. As a pick-and-roll team, so much is done through Gasol that his help is important despite whatever the numbers say. Bringing in Gasol with four or five minutes left in the game instead of two could have given this club chance to breakaway from the Lakers.
Of course, a few bounces here and foul calls there and the Grizzlies walk away with a win, but with the playoffs looming, this club will need Lionel Hollins on his best ball game to make this post season a success. He's shown improvement over the course of the season, but tonight's regression reminds us all he isn't finely tuned yet.