In order of progression, Monday night’s matchup against the Denver Nuggets was:
- A surprising challenge for the Grizzlies
- A cakewalk
- A surprising challenge for the Grizzlies.
Things came full circle on Monday night when the Grizzlies pulled a 92-81 win out of their magic hat. Just 9 games ago the Nuggets were competing not for a playoff spot but for the title of NBA’s ultimate laughingstock. The team was 20-39 and sinking quickly when
captain coach Brian Shaw was fired midseason and interim head coach Melvin Hunt took over. The change lit a fire under the team and they started on a 6-2 streak which led them into their matchup against Memphis.
After the Nuggets reported that Lawson, Manimal, and Gallo would be resting on Monday, that potential challenge seemed to dissipate. Though for the first half that disappearing act was more similar to a poor man’s Houdini than a true vanishing act, as the threat ever so slowly made its way out of sight. With an uninspired 10 point lead the Grizzlies headed into the locker room after making just one 3-point shot and turning the ball over 13 times- equal to their full game season average. Their lead came solely from post play and getting to the foul line for 12 made free throws to Denver’s 3.
As quickly as the Nug’s DNPs diminished the potential Denver challenge, it reappeared in similar fashion coming out of halftime. Denver won the third quarter 26-18 by getting even hotter from the field and cooling down Memphis beyond their standard, just-above-freezing shooting form. While the Nuggets shot 50% from the field and 67% from three, the Grizzlies could only manage a 32% field goal percentage with two 3-point misses (that’s 0% if you’re doing the math at home). The turning of the tide was perhaps best visualized in a rapid sequence that saw Jeff Green (who finished with a -11 plus/minus) miss his sole three-pointer of the night only for Gary Harris to drain an identical shot on the other end. Memphis’ lack of energy in the first half finally caught up with them and the Nuggets seemed to be the true carnivores in that moment.
In the most befitting of fashions for this matchup, the Grizzlies then responded with a dominant quarter of their own and swung the momentum in their favor late. It was nearly a complete reversal from the 3rd quarter as the Grizzlies eventually went on to win the 4th 27-18 and the game 92-81. Unlike many other victories throughout the season, this one will not be making any compilation videos or highlight reels. Overall Memphis shot 86% from the line (with an impressive 24 free throws), 41% from the field, and *cough* *cough* 22% from beyond the arc. The Grizzlies really have Zach Randolph and Tony Allen to thank for toughing out the W. Both ended up with a +16 plus/minus rating and led the team in both rebounds and points scored. All in all it was a true Grizzlies grind-it-out win to add to their now 47-20 record.
Final: Memphis 92, Denver 81