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Recap: Grizzlies struggle against the Nuggets, fall 87-78

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Memphis scored 78 points, so they lost.

NBA: Memphis Grizzlies at Denver Nuggets Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The Memphis Grizzlies played the Denver Nuggets at the Pepsi Center on Friday night. After coming off a home win versus the New Orleans Pelicans, the Grizz looked to create their first win streak since late October. Denver had lost three games in row, looking sloppy on both ends of the floor of late.

Key efforts would be needed from JaMychal Green, who had double digit rebounding games in three of the last eight contests including a double-double against NOLA on Wednesday night. With bigs Miles Plumlee and Nikola Jokic, it would be an interesting front court matchup for the road team.

The first quarter saw Memphis come out strong, hitting two threes in the first four minutes, while also getting the Nuggets in early foul trouble. Nikola Jokic would commit two quick fouls and had to sit with 9:22 left in the first quarter. The Grizzlies tallied as large as a 15 point lead thru the first quarter, ending the first quarter up 10, 26-16.

NBA: Memphis Grizzlies at Denver Nuggets Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

But in typical Grizzly fashion, that lead would not last. By the 8:18 mark of the second quarter, the lead was just three points. Memphis’ offense slowed significantly once the second team checked in, a team that features Mario Chalmers and Jarell Martin. Chalmers made his nightly negative impact, but the Grizz never surrendered the lead. A heavy dose of James Ennis III (yes, you read that right), who contributed 10 points in the quarter, kept the Grizzlies in the lead. The halftime count was 47-43.

The third quarter was also typical Grizzly basketball. By 7:44 left in the third Memphis has no fouls to give, quickly putting the Nuggets in the bonus at the 6:59 mark. The lead was not surrendered, by sheer horrible basketball by both teams, until 5:17 left in the quarter. As the game progressed, the Grizzlies went away from downhill basketball, settling for long range jumpers and very few Marc Gasol touches.

Jokic finally got involved for Denver, which instantly changed the Nuggets offense. Though there weren’t many points scored by either side, the Denver offense looked to find a rhythm playing through Jokic. Aside from a nifty Brooks to Deyonta Davis lob, the Grizzly offense was putrid in the third quarter. They scored just 13 points, bringing the score to 67-60 in favor of the Nugs entering the fourth quarter.

Memphis would need a strong final quarter to finish the game with a win. After two quick Tyreke Evans fastbreak layups, Nuggets head coach Michael Malone called timeout just 2:03 into the quarter. The timeout worked, to say the least, the lead was nine points within 30 seconds. Grizzly head coach JB Bickerstaff decided to stop the bleeding at the 6:14 mark of the fourth, the deficit had ballooned to 13 with a scored 79-66.

Though there seemed to be some questionable calls on the Grizzlies and lack of called on the offensive end, Memphis did themselves no favors. The shot selection was questionable and the effort on the opposite end simply went away. This marks the 11th game of the season that the Grizzlies have held a double digit lead and lost the game.

NBA: Memphis Grizzlies at Denver Nuggets Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

This was a game of two halves, a strong first half of team basketball, a second half of no effort and poor offense. It became unwatchable, but depending how you see this season, that is a good thing. The horrific loss just helped to embrace the graceful tank.

Memphis finished the game shooting 39%, scoring just 31 points in the second half. It will forever be tough to compete when you score just 78 points in an NBA game. The biggest discrepancy came at the free throw line, 11-14 for the Grizz and 26-32 for the Nugs. Memphis also committed 10 more fouls. The Grizzlies fall to 13-28 on the season.

Final score: 87-78

As a fan, I expect more from this team. Perhaps not a win, but just competing at a higher level would be nice. They will have another opportunity to right the wrongs on Monday versus the LA Lakers. This will be the annual MLK Day game on TNT, tip is at 4:30 CT.

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