The Memphis Grizzlies took on the Pistons last night in Detroit in a game that got a whole lot interesting in the days leading up to it. Blake Griffin’s debut was to occur against Memphis, which was only fitting considering all the times Blake got destroyed by the Grizzlies when he was with the Lob City Clippers taking on Grit and Grind just a few short years ago. Times have changed, of course, and now as those eras end players like Blake have new homes, and teams like the Grizzlies are struggling to find their identities.
But the young Grizzlies have started to figure out who they are. They are a scrappy bunch, a group who in the face of pretty tough odds (more on that in a minute) doesn’t lie down and show that “losing attitude” of a halfheartedly tanking team. The culture that was established by Zach Randolph, Tony Allen, Mike Conley, and Marc Gasol over the past seven years still has some fight left in it, despite the fact Marc is the last man standing from that “Core Four” (for now, anyway). A squad of 2nd round picks, of afterthoughts, of reclamation projects and raw talents, without their best player this season (Tyreke Evans) because he is about to get traded, almost spoiled Blake Griffin’s party .
Memphis fell 104-102, but both sides of the “tanking” debate have solid ground to stand on. The loss improved the lottery standing of the Grizzlies, but it also was one of the more fun games to watch in a long time from this team. While it was frustrating at times, growth is being shown and effort is evident.
Given the state of things, that is all we can ask for. That the players and control what they can control and allow for the chips to fall where they may. If they play this way the rest of the season and lose, so be it. It won’t be in a lost cause. And eventually the wins will come.
Some quick thoughts on the game itself.
The refs didn’t lose it for Memphis...but they didn’t help.
The Grizzlies team as a whole had almost as many free throw attempts as one player on the opposing team. If you’ve been following this team for a while, none of that previous sentence is shocking. Blake Griffin attempted 13 free throws on his own, while Memphis as a team only shot 14. That is with 65 of the Grizzlies’ 96 total shot attempts coming inside the three-point line. The Pistons took 37 shots from the charity stripe, making for a 23-shot disparity.
This is not an argument that the Grizzlies don’t foul a lot. They do. They are dead last in the NBA in personal fouls committed (or first, depending on how you look at it) and are a full foul per game ahead of the 29th (or second) team, the Phoenix Suns, according to basketball-reference.com. The refs aren’t out to “get” the Grizzlies. Combine the fact that part of that “culture” we talked about earlier includes physical play with the reputation that comes with it, plus how young these Grizzlies are and how they often reach instead of move their feet defensively? Memphis is where they are.
To say that Detroit was that much better at defending the rim, though? That much more adept at not making excessive contact on shot attempts, to the tune of 23 more shots from the free throw line? Especially when video evidence like this exists?
Uhhhhh this was a no call from the ref in a 1 point game with a minute left pic.twitter.com/FvlUmj9Lhc— Fastbreak Breakfast (@fastbreakbreak) February 2, 2018
In the long run, does it matter that Memphis lost that game this season? No. But as Interim Head Coach J.B. Bickerstaff said post game, these young players (and Marc/JaMychal Green/James Ennis III) play too hard to get that big of a disparity put against them. Memphis is bad on their own this season, NBA officials. Other teams don’t need your help to beat the Grizzlies.
A little more balance would be nice.
An off night for Gasol doesn’t doom Memphis...what?
Marc had a very Rudy Gay-esque shooting performance for the Grizzlies, scoring 19 points on 21 shots. Gasol was aggressive offensively. This is good, and what most fans want from Marc, even in a losing campaign. With that, however, comes the occasional clunker, and Gasol’s inability to carry the team has been discussed here, there, and everywhere. Hopefully Mike Conley’s return next season will reinvigorate Marc and allow for him to share the load more.
The best thing about this poor shooting night, though, is that Memphis still almost won! Without Tyreke Evans, if you had said before the game Marc would shoot 6-21 from the field overall and 1-8 from beyond the arc I would have said the Grizzlies would get blown out. But the opposite happened- a competitive game broke out, thanks to the efforts of Deyonta Davis (12 points on 7 shots with 8 rebounds in 17 minutes), and Myke Henry (10 points on 5 shots), and Andrew Harrison (18 points on 14 shots, 8 assists, 4 rebounds). The team around Marc- the hodgepodge of players mentioned above- still almost got the job done on the road against a team competing for a playoff spot.
The young cubs of the Grizzlies are getting better.
Memphis returns to the hardwood Sunday afternoon for a matinee game against the Toronto Raptors. With two full days off between games, Friday (today) feels like a prime time for a trade to go down with Tyreke Evans and any other piece going out. How the team looks Sunday may be different than they looked last night.
It was nice, though, to see that sometimes, when the more things change the more they stay the same is said, it can be for a good reason. These Grizzlies have heart. We can work with that.