Well, the J.B. Bickerstaff era started out poorly Wednesday night as the Grizzlies lost another one, this time to the San Antonio Spurs 104-95. Now it is nine in a row…With injuries across the board (Conley, Parsons, Wright, Chalmers), it was a tall task to compete with anyone, let alone the Spurs. San Antonio has only lost twice at home all year, one to Golden State and the other Milwaukee, even with Kawhi Leonard out. Both these teams kept an up-tempo agenda against the Spurs to get the job done. That could be the Grizzlies go to if they had a shot in this one.
The offense actually had a rhythm to it as a new starting lineup gave a little change to what we have seen from past games. The team shot 45.7% from the field and 50% from three, which was a step in the right direction. However, it was the turnovers that killed this team throughout the game. One thing that unfortunately Memphis knows so well is that the Spurs will kill you on sloppy basketball. Too many turnovers cost them too many points. That was the story of this game.
Now, to team grades.
Tyreke Evans- B
It finally happened. Tyreke got the start at the 1. Even though a Chalmers injury had to occur for this to happen, it was a nice starting lineup that hopefully Bickerstaff sticks with. Even with the start, Evans still led the team in scoring with 22 points. He did not miss a beat when inserted into the starting lineup. With news of Mike Conley being out 2-3 more weeks, Tyreke will be called on to continue this scoring. However, even with this scoring, the team still isn’t meeting its mark. It is all still being piece worked together.
Ben McLemore- C
This is a start that was not expected. With all the injuries, the team was bound for anything, but not many expected that McLemore was ready for the start. It did have a good flow to it, however, as he stuck to his job and shot 3’s. He went 3-10 from the field and 2-5 from deep while finishing with 10 points. Definitely a lousy shooting night, but he fits well with the larger role the injuries place upon him. He was my favorite signing coming into the year (obviously I was wrong and didn’t see Evans coming), so seeing him in this role could give him the opportunity he has been looking for.
Dillon Brooks- C+
The Rook was average in this game, showing bursts of athleticism, but he still did not do enough to bring the team to the next level. Every night it is more of the same though, how much can the Grizzlies ask him to change the team dynamic? He gives them the young, fast pace Memphis needed in this game which was crucial in transition. One thing did occur to me while watching this game. Kobi Simmons and Dillon Brooks could make for some exciting minutes in the future. Just food for thought.
JaMychal Green- C-
JaM had an underwhelming game, besides just having 9 points on average shooting (4-9 from the field), the dominance of LaMarcus Aldridge led the narrative for the night. He had 41 points on the night and did what he wanted in the post against Green and some against Gasol. Without the Spurs having Kawhi, teams have got to stop Aldridge from dominating for a chance to win. This falls on Green and Gasol to clean up the boards and better defend the paint. Green is normally known for his solid defense, but against bigger guys like Aldridge who uses his size to shoot over players Green needed help on the island.
Marc Gasol- D
Tonight was the night where Gasol needed to shine. The national narrative was the Grizzlies had to pick between their superstar or their coach, and they picked their superstar. It was an opportunity to surge back with a big game like the first games of the season. This did not happen. He scored 10 points on 4-11 shooting. Not ideal. Gasol showed he still was the better Gasol brothe, working him over in the paint, but as mentioned above he has got to combat Aldridge better than he did. Without Conley, he is the leader and the pulse of this Grizzlies team. He has got to own up and stop this losing streak single-handedly.
For what it is worth, the bench actually played much better than expected. As mentioned by some on Twitter, the bench looked like a roster the Hustle would send out there, and that is not false. Kobi Simmons saw the floor and had a good stretch. The real story was Andrew Harrison having a solid game, with some Jarell Martin flashes thrown in there. The whole bench combined for 36 and outscored the Spurs bench by two. That is a positive.
The leading scorer was James Ennis III with 15. He, Harrison, and Martin were key pieces in the Grizzlies come back and run in the third quarter. All three had to step up this game for this injury-riddled lineup. This game showed more promise than I have seen in a long, long while from Harrison. I’ve been hard on him, so I hope he can prove me wrong.
The takeaways from this game are this was a tough one for the Grizzlies, plain and simple. Unfortunately, it does not get much better as they see the Spurs again Friday in Memphis. Someone has got to step up on this team to stop this slide. I say this every time, but that is the only way this is going to stop. Bickerstaff is now the man in charge, so the pressure falls on him immediately. As I mentioned in a piece on him Wednesday, I like him more than other backup assistants in the league. Here is where he proves his worth. This team and city have lost enough. Time to end the losing.