Basketball, at its core, is a make-or-miss game. If you shoot the ball well, then you have a good chance to win. And if you don’t shoot the ball well, then there’s a good chance that you will lose.
The Memphis Grizzlies did not shoot well tonight to put it nicely as they suffered a disheartening 100-97 loss against a red-hot, yet depleted Miami Heat team at FedexForum. The three-point disparity between the two teams (14-39 for Miami and 8-29 for Memphis) was simply too much for the Grizzlies to overcome.
The Grizzlies got off to an incredibly good start in the first quarter, as they made their first six shots and jumped out to a 15-7 lead in the first four minutes. However, their complete inability to clean the defensive glass would allow the Heat to remain in the game. The Heat grabbed five offensive rebounds in the quarter and would have 9 second-chance points as they led 30-29.
The second quarter started off as a good example of what happens when the Grizzlies’ vaunted defense begins to fail them. Kelly Olynyck, who appeared to be a distant cousin of the splash brothers in this game, made two straight threes to begin the quarter as the Heat went on a 7-0 run before Coach Bickerstaff called timeout. The Grizzlies just seemed to have no answer for the energy and relentless offensive execution of the Heat, who were obviously motivated after a humiliating loss against the Utah Jazz. The Heat would lead by as many as 11. However, the Grizzlies would finally respond with better energy defensively, and they would only trail 51-49 at the half after Garrett Temple made a 33-foot prayer as the halftime buzzer sounded.
Despite Temple’s last second heave, the Grizzlies struggled mightily shooting the basketball, with shades of last week’s game against the Lakers on display. They shot 42% and only went 3-13 from beyond the arc. Jaren Jackson Jr (who again, is ONLY 19) and Mike Conley led the team with 12 and 9 points respectively. The Heat shot 43% in the half and were led by Josh Richardson’s 9 points.
The third quarter was mostly a back-and-affair, with neither team being able to take a significant advantage. The Heat were able to remain in front for most of the quarter due mainly to three-point disparity between the teams. But Garrett Temple was also able to finally find his range after an extremely rough December, making two impactful threes in the frame. Mike Conley would sink three free throws after being fouled in the closing seconds of the frame, giving the Grizzlies a 73-71 lead entering the fourth.
The fourth quarter got off to a testy start as JaMychal Green and Josh Richardson both received technicals within the first minute. The Grizzlies built a five-point lead, but back-to-back threes from Derrick Jones Jr. and Tyler Johnson, who was superb all night long, gave the Heat a one-point lead. The Heat only, well, heated up from there, as their three-point shooting simply became too much to overcome.
While other factors are certainly involved, much of the Grizzlies’ recent struggles can be tied to simply poor shooting. This may be a controversial take, but it’s hard to win basketball teams when you can’t put the ball in the basket, and your opponent is doing so at a high rate. Especially when you can’t defend the high pick-and-roll like they did at the end of the 4th quarter tonight
It really is almost entirely inexplicable when a team full of professional basketball players can’t seem to make an open jump shot if their lives depended on it. It happens to everyone at some point, like it did with the Rockets when they missed 27 straight threes in game seven of the Western Conference Finals last year. But it has now happened to the Grizzlies three times in the last week—the Lakers game, the 4th quarter of the Nuggets game, and throughout the entirety of tonight.
Perhaps there needs to be some extra work at shootaround. Conley again led the Grizzlies with 22 points and 8 assists on the night. Garrett Temple and Jaren Jackson Jr. both added 15.