Memphis faced the Denver Nuggets on Friday night. With Denver a half game up on the Clippers for the eighth spot in the West, and Memphis trying to lose, the result of this game was inevitable. The young guys are in the lineup and the future of Memphis basketball is flashing before our eyes. The Orlando Magic, Atlanta Hawks, and Dallas Mavericks were all in action Friday night, so for the pro-tankers of the world, this game was important.
Per usual, the Grizzlies started slow offensively, but picked up the pace to close the quarter. There was an obvious effort by the coaching staff to get the young guys involved early and often, with Kobi Simmons and Ivan Rabb getting significant minutes in the first quarter. The pace of the game was exciting, both teams choosing the focus more on offense than defense. The quarter ended in favor of the Nuggets, 35-29 with both teams shooting over 50%.
The second quarter was more of the same, fast paced offense and optional defense. Offensive rebounds kept the Grizzlies relevant, tallying eight in the first half. Memphis also led the steal battle, 8-7. Denver shot lights out as most teams tend to do against the sporadic defense of Memphis, shooting 60.5% through two quarters. And as usual, the Grizzlies attempted significantly less free throws than their opponent. Denver was 12-13 from the free throw line in the field half, Memphis was 3-6.
Future Memphis Grizzly Will Barton was on fire in the first half, going for 14 points on 6-7 shooting. He capped the half with a long two pointer to the end half. Jarrell Martin gave the Grizz a good first half with 14 points on 7-9 shooting. Every player on the Memphis roster for Friday’s game logged at least six minutes in the half. Despite the Grizz closing on a 10-4 run, the score was 63-54 at half.
Jarrell Martin started the third quarter with a nice post-move bucket quickly followed by two quick fouls. He exited the game with five fouls at the 10:37 mark in the third. The Nuggets continued to sizzle, finishing the quarter shooting 58.5% with 15 more field goals attempts. Ivan Rabb got going in his limited minutes, showing Memphis fans just what a gold mine we may have gotten with him. He finished the quarter with nine points in the game.
Turnovers were the saving grace for Memphis, forcing the Nuggets into 17 through three quarters. Unfortunately, the Grizzlies also committed 16. Denver looked crisp offensively, capitalizing on the inexperience and unfamiliarity of each Grizz lineup. The best tank lineup in the NBA was trotted on the court by the Memphis coaching staff: Chalmers, McLemore, Rabb, Brooks, and Gasol. That’s what we want to see. The Nuggets led after three quarters 90-81.
Memphis showed classic grit-n-grind to keep this game close late in the fourth quarter. The Grizz cut into the lead by the 6:00 mark, cutting the score to 95-91 with 6:06 left in the game. Marc Gasol sparked the comeback, scoring 18 points in the second half and 13 in the fourth quarter. He sufferd a scary ankle injury with 2:44 left in the game, also receiving a tech for complaining about the no-call. At the point Gasol went down the score was 101-98.
Shortly after, Jamal Murray fouled out scoring just nine points, seven points less than his season average, with 1:38 left. Both teams went back and forth down to the wire, with the Jarrell Martin missing a wide open three down 104-102 at the 1:19 mark. It was too little too late, but a great confidence boost for the young guys moving forward.
Gary Harris and Will Barton combined for 50 points on 21-32 shooting. Denver ended the game shooting 54%, but just 6-22 (27.3%) from three. All five starters were in double figures scoring for Memphis with Gasol leading the way on an inefficient (7-17) 22 points. Jarrell Martin finished with 16 points on 8-12 shooting and few highlight dunks. Memphis won the rebound battle 40-37 with 17 offensive rebounds. They also won the turnover contest, though both teams were careless with the ball, 24-20.
The Grizzlies will face the Orlando Magic tomorrow night.