Last night’s game in Memphis wasn’t just a basketball game, as it was also in remembrance of a man who had a dream. The Grizzlies donned special jerseys in honor of MLK Day, and a symposium was held before the game. In addition, the game was aired on ESPN, which isn’t an every day occurrence for Memphis. So, with the Grizzlies on the big stage, all eyes were on Memphis for the night as we remembered Martin Luther King Jr.
"We know what it means to the city... There's always something about it that makes it really special" -Marc Gasol on playing on MLK day— Grizzly Bear Blues (@sbnGrizzlies) January 16, 2017
"Well you just feel proud to play for this franchise, for MLK, for all it represents... It's an honor..." -Mike Conley.— Grizzly Bear Blues (@sbnGrizzlies) January 16, 2017
Out the gate, Memphis had a slower start, but by the end of the first quarter had a 5 point lead, 19-14. JaMychal Green and Marc Gasol both had fast offensive starts and had impressive performances on the night overall. Both Chicago and Memphis struggled offensively in the first quarter. Chicago was 0-6 from three and 2-9 from the free throw line. In the second, the Grizzlies jumped out to an early 7 point lead, but it soon dissolved and Chicago began to take over the show. By halftime, Memphis trailed by 6. The Bulls can largely thank their second quarter explosion to Doug McDurmott, who had 22 points in the first half.
In the third quarter, things remained tight, but Chicago maintained a slim 1 point lead going into the fourth quarter. Doug McDermott was the star for Chicago, while Jimmy Butler had a quiet night in comparison with 16 points (a lot of which came in the fourth quarter). Off the bench, Zach Randolph heated up in the second half for the Grizzlies and had 15 on the night (and 16 rebounds). He was definitely the star of the Grizzlies’ bench, which was otherwise quiet with a combined 12 points from Carter and Troy Daniels.
Down the stretch, Mike Conley stepped up for the Grizzlies, as did Marc Gasol. But with 2 minutes left in the game, Memphis trailed the Bulls by 3. Zach Randolph’s clutch bucket cut the deficit to 2, and a couple Mike Conley free throws tied the game up. Jimmy Butler had had a quieter night points-wise, but in crunch time he showed up big.
In the end, the Grizzlies were down 2 with less than 30 seconds left. And after a disappointing missed shot by Mike Conley on the following possession, the Grizzlies ended up falling short against the Chicago Bulls in FedExForum, 108-104.
The Struggle For Consistency
Yet again, the Grizzlies are having trouble finding their groove. It seems the Grizzlies have been rising to the challenge against “big name” teams, such as the Houston Rockets and Golden State Warriors, but they continue to struggle against teams like the Sacramento Kings. Last night, they couldn’t pull out a win against the Dwyane Wade-less Chicago Bulls at home.
These type of mediocre performances leave me scratching my head after seeing what this team can do against top-tier teams on the road. It seems like the Grizzlies tend to play to the level of their opponent, for better or for worse. And in general, Memphis is great in close games. Yet last night, they crumbled against the Bulls in the final seconds as Jimmy Butler came in clutch and helped to carry his team to victory.
If the Grizzlies want to contend for a title, they’ve got to figure out how to find consistency on both ends of the floor. Their playoff seeding could depend on it.
"We are searching for consistency" -Zach Randolph— Grizzly Bear Blues (@sbnGrizzlies) January 16, 2017
"It's frustrating... It's tough to pinpoint it. We gotta figure it out," -Mike Conley on Memphis' lack of consistency.— Grizzly Bear Blues (@sbnGrizzlies) January 16, 2017
The Free Throw Disparity
The Chicago Bulls were more aggressive on the offensive end last night, and that resulted in them getting to shoot 35 free throws. However, they only converted 24 of those attempts (68.6%). On the other side, the Grizzlies only had 13 attempts, but they converted all 13 of them. This was a refreshing stat to see if only because the Grizzlies have struggled the past couple of games from the line more than usual. But unfortunately, the Grizzlies didn’t get to the line enough times.
The Bulls had 11 more points from the line than Memphis. You could blame some of it on the officiating, but I blame most of it on the Grizzlies taking too many jump shots for a lot of the game, not being aggressive enough on the offensive end, and not converting some rim shots they’d normally make.
The Bulls outscored the Grizzlies in the paint, 48-40. In addition, the Grizzlies took 32 three pointers and converted 11 of them, while the Bulls shot 17 but only made 4 themselves.
Marc & Mike Gave Their All, But Butler & McDermott Carried The Bulls To Victory
Mike Conley and Marc Gasol put on a show on national television and furthered their case on why both should be in the upcoming All-Star game. Mike Conley had 28 points, 8 assists, 2 steals, and 5 rebounds. He was 3-9 from three and 7-7 from the free throw line.
Marc Gasol also had a very impressive night with 24 points, 3 assists, and 11 rebounds. Both were great down the stretch, until Conley missed a crucial shot at the end of the game. The two players combined for 52 points. As a Grizzlies fan, you definitely can’t ask for more than that.
But the problem was that Marc and Mike didn’t get enough help from the bench. While Vince Carter and Zach Randolph did contribute, the rest of the bench was quiet. Also, Tony Allen only had 4 points and had a plus minus of -3. Chandler Parsons played a little over 18 minutes last night, but he was 2-6 from the field for 7 points. So the issue was, Marc and Mike just can’t do it alone.
For Chicago, Doug McDermott was on fire off the bench. He had an incredible 31 points and 6 rebounds in about 33 minutes of play on his career night. He was 3-6 from three and 10-11 from the line. While Jimmy Butler appeared to have a quieter night with 16 points, 3 assists, and 7 rebounds, he performed at an All-Star level down the stretch and propelled his team to victory.
Now, the Grizzlies look to bounce back from last night’s disappointing loss as they travel to face the Washington Wizards on Wednesday.