Whatever magic the Grizzlies managed to find in their win last week, when they dismantled Charlotte to the tune of 69 first-half points en route to a 105-90 victory, was conspicuously absent Monday. The Grizzlies staggered out of the gate, then managed to look competitive for the briefest of moments, before collapsing in on themselves like a dying star.
By the end of the night, the Grizzlies were on the receiving end of a 104-85 drubbing, and even that seemed mild compared to the looming cloud that hovered over Mike Conley and, to a lesser extent, Vince Carter, both of whom left the game with injuries.
As has been the case so many times this year, the Grizzlies offense failed to function properly early on in the game. Five minutes into the first quarter, Memphis had already dug itself a ten-point deficit. Fortunately, led by the scoring of Marc Gasol and (surprisingly enough) Tony Allen, the team managed to claw its way back into the contest. After twelve minutes, the game was tied.
It was the second quarter where everything really fell apart. The Grizzlies compounded their bad shooting by committing bad fouls and turning the ball over. Whatever the first half of their fist game in Charlotte had been a week ago, this was the antithesis.
Charlotte certainly deserves some of the credit. After all, they entered this game tenth in the league in defensive rating, even while dealing with injuries. But there was more to Memphis’ failings than just good Hornets defense. It seemed even when Memphis found open looks, the shots refused to fall.
The Grizzlies’ woes were only made worse by the Hornets’ offensive distribution. Charlotte’s 17-point halftime lead came even without a big half from Kemba Walker, who finished the first two quarters with just 9 points. Instead, the Hornets were led by strong scoring efforts from Jeremy Lamb (11 points) and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (14 points).
If you need any indication of how the Grizzlies offense looked in the first half, look no further than the fact that their leading scorer was Tony Allen, who had nine in the first two quarters. As much as Grizz fans love Tony, even with all his warts and imperfections, it’s obvious that any time he’s your leading scorer, things aren’t going well on the offensive end. In the second quarter alone, Memphis was outscored 31-14. As a team, they shot 3-17 from three (17.6%) in the first half, and were outrebounded 27-21. It was nothing short of an abject disaster.
And yet even that wasn’t the worst part of Memphis’ night.
The third quarter started off inconspicuously enough, even somewhat positive, in fact, as the Grizzlies came out hot and trimmed their 17 point deficit to 12 by forcing turnovers and scoring in transition.
Then, with around 8 minutes to go in the third, Mike Conley stepped in the lane to draw a charge. He got the call, but, more concerning, he remained on the floor long after, writhing in the sort of pain that Grizzlies fans haven’t seen in a while.
As @MarkMcCleskey points out, the last time Conley was down that long his face was shattered.— Kevin Lipe (@FlyerGrizBlog) November 29, 2016
From the replay, it appeared that Conley took a knee to the back. He went to the locker room, moving gingerly. Soon after, it was announced that he would miss the remainder of the game with a lower back injury.
He's up but moving *very* gingerly. Headed to locker room.— Chris Herrington (@HerringtonNBA) November 29, 2016
Mike Conley (lower back) will not return against Hornets after leaving game with 8:25 left in the third quarter.— Ronald Tillery (@CAGrizBeat) November 29, 2016
From there, everything went downhill. The Grizzlies’ young players couldn’t hold themselves together, and the turnovers mounted. The deficit swelled to 21 by the end of the third, and there plenty of angst flowing from the crowd. Even David Fizdale, frustrated with an offensive foul called against Vince Carter, drew a technical foul at the end of the quarter.
If the Conley injury wasn't enough, Vince Carter also limped off the court with an apparent injury late in the game. Then, even with the game seemingly out of reach, Fizdale reinserted Gasol into the lineup. The Grizzlies were able to trim a few points off Charlotte’s lead, but it seemed like unnecessary minutes in a contest that was already slipping through the Grizzlies’ hands. Gasol was eventually pulled, but not before he had racked up 32 minutes of playing time, a good chunk of which he could have avoided.
After the game, there were no updates on Conley’s health. Peter Edmiston reported that he would soon be reevaluated, a word Grizzlies fans have likely gotten sick of over the past week or so.
Nothing official (or even unofficial) on Mike Conley. Was evaluated tonight and will be evaluated again in the morning.— Peter Edmiston (@peteredmiston) November 29, 2016
This loss was a pretty dismal affair, but on the bright side, Jarell Martin had his first career double-double. The young player out of LSU finished the night with 11 points and 12 boards off the bench. Troy Williams started once again and posted 9 points, 2 rebounds, and 2 assists. Marc Gasol led Memphis’ scoring with 19 points.
The Grizzlies will have a day off on Tuesday before heading up north to take on one of Vince Carter’s old squads, the Toronto Raptors. Hopefully, when the team takes the court in Toronto, Mike Conley will be out there with the rest of them, ready to play.