Rough game, says my roommate.
The losing streak hit a very official sounding five games last night, after the Memphis Grizzlies pooped up the place with a 107-90 home loss to the Atlanta Hawks. The Hawks were on the second game of a back to back, sat out Dwight Howard for Kris freaking Humphries, and still breezed through this one.
Chandler Parsons was back and David Fizdale reinserted JaMychal Green in his usual starting power forward spot, sending Brandan Wright and Andrew Harrison to the bench while James Ennis moved to the shooting guard. It didn’t seem to matter, as the Grizzlies were bad from the start. They mustered a few decent looks early that didn’t fall, but mostly, turnovers and lethargic execution made it impossible to build any momentum.
Maybe the only instance of momentum was a 10-0 run in the second quarter to cut a 40-20 Hawks lead in half, but the Grizzlies came out of halftime looking every bit as dull as when they started the game. It was never interesting again. There was actually a little 9-0 run in the fourth quarter there, but I looked up and the Grizzlies were still down 17.
It’s getting hard to remember, but we know what this team looks like when they’re playing well. That team tries a lot harder than the one that got roasted by Taurean Prince, who I’m sure will be a fine player but hadn’t even played more than 15 minutes in any of his last six games. Prince netted a team-high and career-high 17 points off the bench, and boy, I sure would like to leave our days of being burnt by a T. Prince in the past.
What we’re left with is a game where the Hawks made 15 of 30 three-pointers (50.0 percent), while the Grizzlies only made 5 for 29 (17.2 percent). JaMychal, with 20 points on 8-for-12 shooting and seven of nine rebounds coming on offense, was the best player for the Grizzlies, and possibly the only good one in a way that mattered. Parsons hit a three, Ennis had a chase-down block and Vince Carter dunked. Did I miss anything?
We’re quickly finding out that JaMychal is one of the Grizzlies’ best players, and meaningful enough for placement in the core three with Mike Conley and Marc Gasol. I love JaMychal Green, what he does, and how hard he plays. That’s not good enough. Even if you were to just look at their salary structure, it’s pretty clear that the Grizzlies need all hands on deck to win games. They’re lucky enough to have JaMychal on a minimum salary while Parsons is still trying to get right, but a combined 24 points on 8-for-23 shooting from Conley and Gasol won’t win games.
When Conley and Gasol find their groove again, I’m sure this boat will mostly correct itself. What they don’t fix by playing better will probably follow anyway. I can’t stress enough that a five-game losing streak, especially in March, with this team, should not lead to too much worry.
But five losses is a lot, and five seems to mean a lot. You do worry about the locker room and about the more serious flaws being displayed, and about what it takes to get right. I especially worry that Fizdale has lost Gasol, which I don’t know to be true, but we should have the right to be a little irrational.
For all of the starting lineup changes that Fiz throws at the wall — and this one, with Ennis as the shooting guard, feels like the best one since it makes use of the single good wing player on the team — this slump doesn’t feel like it’s about optimal player combinations anymore. It feels like it goes deeper than missed shots or blown rotations, and that’s highly rattling. I still think Fizdale is going to be a good coach for this team, but we’re all starting to wonder, right?
It sucks. The last few losses were frustrating, but this one is deflating. My head tells me to chill out a little bit, because the Washington Wizards played the first month of their season like this and the Toronto Raptors played a month and half like this. These things happen, and their fans killed themselves over it, but both teams look better now. This stuff usually regresses to the mean, and winning solves a lot of everything.
But when I say it sucks, man, it really sucks. You guys deserve better than this too. I’m trying not to overreact, but is Gasol going to start playing defense again soon? After tonight, I feel like I don’t even want to watch him have to defend Dennis Schroder ever again. And can any of the role players on this team — Ennis, Tony Allen, Troy Daniels, your pick of the back-up point guards — make themselves useful on anything near a consistent basis?
Those guys are probably up in that locker room asking themselves the same thing, and this sucks for them most of all. I guess, then, that my hope is that the locker room isn’t beyond saving. We’ll probably be fine. It just doesn’t feel like it right now.
To happier times, here’s a box score from a different game.