It started well enough, as Memphis appeared to have some of their trademark "Grit and Grind" back about them. Mike Conley showed aggression early attempting to score the ball, as did the Grizzlies as a unit on the defensive end. There was better energy on rotations, better effort on transition opportunities, and even though Memphis was down two at the end of the first quarter you felt like maybe the team was turning a corner a bit...
Then, the second and third quarter happened. And Memphis was outscored 56-38 in those 24 minutes of basketball. And Memphis looked as they have in previous blowout losses; disinterested. Tired. Old. Brandan Wright went out due to knee soreness, meaning Jarnell Stokes had to play emergency minutes at Center. They looked as if the game had passed them by as underachievers like Trey Burke dropped 24 points on their heads with six made three-point shots over the totality of the game. A lack of rebounding prowess, a lack of consistency from Memphis' greatest stars (Conley and Marc Gasol shot a combined 12-39 from the field through the whole game) led to Utah building up a supposedly insurmountable lead of 77-57 heading in to the fourth quarter.
Then, something crazy happened...Memphis showed some fight. Matt Barnes found his shot and scored nine-straight points for the Grizzlies, leading a run that got the score within five at 84-79 with 1:50 left in the final frame. Ball movement was crisp, and the vaunted Memphis defense returned and shut down Utah offensively. But it was too little, too late. The Utah Jazz leaned on their athletic front court and foul shooting to finish out the game on a 5-0 run and win the contest 89-79.
With the loss, Memphis falls to 3-4 on the season and is left with a little bit for everyone to be satisfied with, depending on where you fall on the "Grizzlies are Doomed" spectrum. For those who think "Grit and Grind" is dead, the Grizzlies played horribly for half of this game and were down 20 heading in to the fourth quarter. Holding the Jazz to 10 points in the fourth quarter makes it that much more sad that the Grizzlies could not beat this team, and beat them soundly.
On the other hand, the "positive patties" in Grizz Nation saw Matt Barnes play well for an extended stretch for the first time all season, saw the vaunted Grizzlies defense for a half of basketball when they've been missing for whole games and saw a team who appeared to attempt to claw out of their current proverbial hell. There are no moral victories in the NBA, but there can be positive takeaways; the fourth quarter is an example of that.
It gets no easier for Memphis, as the Los Angeles Clippers and Golden State Warriors await them over the next two games. Will the Grizzlies rise to the challenges ahead, or fall back to 3-6 in their first nine games of the 2015-2016 season? Time will tell.