For the first time since the firing of David Fizdale, the Memphis Grizzlies took the floor for a game. Unfortunately, they didn't give interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff much to work with. In addition to all of the injuries already documented (Conley, Wright, Selden), the team added Mario Chalmers, who missed the game with soreness in his right ankle, and Chandler Parsons, who sat out with soreness in his right knee.
With Mario Chalmers out, Tyreke Evans got the start at point guard, with McLemore and Brooks at the wings. JaMychal Green and Marc Gasol started in the front court. Kobi Simmons and Vince Hunter, the Hustle players on two-way deals, were both active for the first time this season.
In the first few possessions, it looked as if Memphis had brought a renewed commitment and attention to detail, but it broke down quickly when confronted with the ceaseless ball movement of the Spurs. It didn't help that LaMarcus Aldridge was in his traditional Grizz Killer mode. He had 17 in the first quarter on a nice 6-9 shooting, including 3-3 from beyond the arc.
Even without Fizdale on the sideline, the Grizzlies continued to play the sloppy brand of basketball that plagued them in their 8-game losing streak. They turned the ball over 6 times in the first quarter alone. If there was anything positive, it was that the Grizzlies didn't fold. Even with things not going their way and LMA hot, they fought to stay in the game. The first quarter concluded with them only down seven, 28-21.
Kobi Simmons checked in to start the second quarter, and the Grizzlies put together a run, meaning, of course, that Kobi Simmons might be the greatest player of all time. The Grizzlies cut the deficit to 4, forcing Popovich to call a timeout three minutes into the quarter.
The Grizzlies cut the Spurs lead to one, but once again sloppy play undid them, with continued turnovers and bad fouls. They added another five turnovers in the second quarter. At the half, the Grizzlies trailed 58-49. LaMarcus Aldridge finished the half with 24 points, while Tyreke Evans led the Grizzlies with 9 points and 5 assists. Marc Gasol chipped in 8 points of his own, while James Ennis and Andrew Harrison had each added 7 points.
The second half got off to the same rough start as the first, allowing the Spurs to push their lead to a game high 15 before the Grizzlies finally managed to get a three from Tyreke. The Grizzlies finally were able to get a few stops and transition buckets, and as the fourth quarter wound down, the Grizzlies found themselves only down 4 following a 19-9 scoring run. A bucket by Anderson pushed the lead to 6, but the Grizzlies went into the final frame with a manageable deficit of 79-73 and a chance to stay in a game they should've had no business being in.
That deficit quickly swelled back to 10 as the Grizzlies committed the same dumb plays—turnovers and bad fouls—that they'd struggled with all game long.
Yet, once again, the Grizzlies refused to go away. Andrew Harrison, back from the dead, helped spur the offense, and McLemore hit a three to cut the lead to three. That was as close as they'd get, though. Memphis had trouble hitting shots, the Spurs found their range, and the lead swelled back up to 10.
All in all, it was a night of mixed results. On one hand, given that the Grizzlies were forced to play with an interim head coach with a roster that looked like Marc, Tyreke, and the Hustle, they should've been blown out. The fact that they were even within striking distance in the fourth quarter is a positive.
But the fact is that the Grizzlies kept themselves from really threatening in this game. Turnovers, many of them dreadful mental errors, killed the Grizzlies in San Antonio. They finished the game with 17 turnovers, many unforced, which the Spurs turned into 15 points.
That's not to say that this game didn't come without its positives. For one, the Grizzlies showed more energy and a greater willingness to communicate. It remains to be seen whether this was just the result of Fizdale's firing or if the Grizzlies can carry this through the season, but for one night, they at least looked like they weren't lacking in the effort department.
More encouraging were the return to life of James Ennis and Andrew Harrison. Both were reeling amid inconsistent minutes over the last few weeks, but both had solid performances. Harrison ran the offense competently, hit open shots, and wasn't a defensive sieve. Ennis looked like the player the Grizzlies had seen in the first few weeks, when they had gotten off to such a hot start. Harrison and Ennis finished with 13 and 15 points respectively on a combined 9-15 shooting. The Grizzlies will need those sort of efforts to continue moving forward if they hope to right the ship.
Tyreke Evans finished the game as the team's leading scorer (22). Marc Gasol had 10 points on 11 shots, but also added 7 points and 6 boards. LaMarcus Aldridge led the Spurs with 41 points on 24 shots. Ouch.
The Grizzlies are off tomorrow. They will face these same Spurs on Friday night in FedExForum. Hopefully by then Chalmers and Parsons should both be back in the lineup. Hopefully.
- Just one quick one tonight. Kobi Simmons only played one stint in the game for five minutes. He scored 2 points and made the only shot he took.