Wow. What an ugly game. An absolutely heart-breaking loss from the Grizzlies Saturday night in front of home crowd at the Forum. Memphis blew a 20-point lead to an Oklahoma City team who was desperate to get a win. The Thunder had not won a road game since Halloween night before the game in Memphis. It was a complete collapse by the Grizzlies that will be a tough one to look past.
Neither team looked like they wanted to win. Both gave up opportunities to take control of the game in the closing minutes either through missed free throws or questionable shot selection. The last minute of the fourth quarter was incredibly hectic. It started with Russell Westbrook taking an iso three (go figure) and missing followed by missed free throws from Tyreke Evans and Marc Gasol to send the game into overtime.
You really felt for the guys after this one. Russ had a terrible shooting night (7-29!!!) and the Forum was sold out and rocking, but they still fell short after some self-induced errors. Gotta make your free throws. It all came down to that.
Now, to team grades.
Andrew Harrison- C+
For whatever reason, Harrison looks like a brand new player out there post-Fizdale era. Saturday night, he was very poor offensively. He shot 1-8 with only 3 points. However, his defense is what has improved. In the biggest play in the game, at the end of regulation, he blocked a Westbrook step-back three forcing the game to OT. He got up and started talking smack letting Russ know he wasn’t going to go out without a fight. That is the intensity that this team needs.
Tyreke Evans- B
Once again, Tyreke goes off to be the leading scorer of this team. He ended this game with 29 points on 13-24 shooting and 13 rebounds. There weren’t many positives in this one, but one thing that is constant is Evans going out there and giving it his all. With it being such a strange night, Evans kept the team with a fighting chance all the way through overtime. Unfortunately, he was one of the Grizzlies who fell victim to the yips Saturday. After a questionable loose-ball foul called on Roberson, Evans went to the line with 1 second left in the 4th to put the Grizzlies up by one. He split the free throws, and the game went on to OT. Either way, Reke is going to get a major payday after this season. Maybe the Grizzlies can get some value for him in a trade before he goes back into free agency.
Dillon Brooks- C-
Dillon Brooks had a better night offensively for the team. However, on the flip side, he looked lost on defense for most of the game. With Paul George out for OKC, Alex Abrines got the start. He ended up with 20 points on 6-8 from 3. Most of the night, Brooks was guarding Abrines. He was not getting through screens as he normally does on Saturday. It is a little worrisome because that is the Rook’s attraction. He gives heart-on-the-sleeve minutes on the defensive side of the ball.
JaMychal Green- D
Let’s just get right to it. Green will be thinking about those OT free throws for a while. With eight seconds left in overtime, Grizzlies up by one, Green missed back to back free throws which would have changed the game completely. As I do feel for the guy, this was a conclusion of another quiet night offensively. With Conley out, Green is going to have to be the third option that has to score for the team to have a chance. Every night this is the case, but JaM has yet to find a rhythm offensively. He went 2-6 with 5 points in 34 minutes. Only six shots in 34 minutes causes concern on how he is fitting in the offensive scheme. Tyreke and Gasol are the clear 1-2, but after that, there is nothing consistent. With his defensive numbers way down this season as well, Green is going to have to start producing in the offense, or, at the very least, be more aggressive taking more shots. It is why he got his contract this off-season.
Marc Gasol- B-
This was a tough matchup for Marc, but he still turned it into a solid night. He had 22 points on 8-17 shooting and 6 rebounds. All of this was against Steven Adams who is a great rebounder who gives it his all on every loose ball. The Gasol-Adams battle was the main reason Evans got his 13 rebounds. The one thing that was fun to watch was the post moves Gasol was putting on Adams in crunch time when the Grizz needed a bucket. At the end of the game, he was bailed out after missing a game-tying free throw. A team goal has got to be making free throws when they matter.
J.B. Bickerstaff- F
The bench had an average night (Ben McLemore with no defense but 17 points), so I wanted to bring focus to two coaching errors that played a major role in the loss as well as the missed free throws.
First, with about 24.6 seconds left, Grizzlies down by one, the Thunder get the ball after a Tyreke layup. The Grizzlies have got to foul or else the time will pretty much run out. Inexplicably, Memphis waits til Bickerstaff is halfway on the court screaming at the players to finally foul. This comes with 10 seconds left. I do not understand why Coach Bickerstaff did not drill it into the team’s thought process to foul right after they cross half court. Crucial seconds were lost.
The second mistake, and much more important, came in OT after Russ made a layup to cut it to a one-point game 101-100 Grizzlies with 13.1 seconds left. The Grizzlies were inbounding the ball with only one timeout left. Right before the ball was inbounded cleanly, Bickerstaff called their final timeout. While they did get an out of bounds play set up, this then hamstrung the team in advancing the ball if OKC scored again, which they did. This decision resulted in Tyreke running the full length of the court with only 5 seconds left and having to shoot an off-balance shot at the buzzer. Keeping the timeout would have let them advance the ball after Westbrook hit the free throws to take the lead.
The takeaway from this game is that the Grizzlies may need to look at different options. As it is still early to totally “tank,” this team isn’t making the playoffs. Mike Conley will help, but he isn’t fixing it all.