Saturday night's game between the Memphis Grizzlies (18-43) and the Orlando Magic (19-43) was a key matchup in what's turned into a hot race for the top lottery odds, but the teams entered the game off completely different circumstances. The Magic were coming off an upset win over the Detroit Pistons on Friday, while the Grizzlies were looking to find the win column for their first time since January.
Yes, you read that correctly. January.
It wouldn't be an easy task, though. The Magic are a bad team. The Grizzlies are bad, but were also without a large chunk of their roster. Tyreke Evans continued to miss time after his rib injury, and the team kept Wayne Selden out as a precautionary measure. Meanwhile, Gasol (rest) and Deyonta Davis (ankle) were unavailable, forcing Memphis to start JaMychal Green at center. The only surprise was that Chandler Parsons, who'd missed time due to an illness, was available.
Ben McLemore also got another start. This time he managed to stay in the game longer than two minutes. This season, it's about the small miracles.
The early portion of this game was characterized by hot shooting and a lack of defense. By the time there were five minutes left in the first, all ten of the game's starters had scored, and both teams were shooting over 50% from the field. The first quarter ended with the Grizzlies leading trailing 31-27. They'd kept the game close, but never managed to grab a lead. Jarell Martin and Ben McLemore each had 6 points to lead the team in scoring.
The second quarter got off to a much uglier start. Neither team scored in the first two minutes of the period, and the Grizzlies found themselves in foul trouble quickly, picking up four team fouls. Ivan Rabb was the worst offender, going to the bench early in the second with three fouls to match his three points.
In spite of that, Memphis kept the Magic in range. They grabbed their first lead, 35-34, at the 8:01 mark of the second after JaMychal Green was fouled in the act of shooting. They would stretch that lead to as much as six before the Magic stormed back behind Aaron Gordon to retake the lead briefly.
The first half ended with the game knotted at 52-apiece. Ben McLemore led the team with 11 points on 5-8 shooting, with Chalmers and Martin chipping in 10 and 8, respectively. The Grizzlies shot 43.5% while allowing the Magic to shoot 54.3%.
The third quarter was a back-and-forth affair, with the teams exchanging buckets and playing a tug-of-war with one-point leads. Ben McLemore and Mario Chalmers, amazingly enough, continued to lead the charge, with JaMychal adding a defensive presence inside. Memphis built a five-point lead at one point, but the inability to get consistent stops prevented them from ever pulling away.
The Grizzlies entered the fourth leading 79-77 and looked on the verge of breaking the game open with a made three and Kobi Simmons steal and score to get things started. But JaMychal Green, who was so good on the glass, could not find his range, and the Magic refused to go away.
After the Grizzlies built a six-point lead, a bad McLemore foul allowed the Magic a three-point play. Then, Evan Fournier found the basket in the waning seconds of the shot clock, and Aaron Gordon found an open lane to put the Magic up one.
Once again, the game turned into a back-and-forth affair. With the Magic up two, Jarell Martin tied the game but could not complete a three-point play to give the Grizzlies a late lead. On the ensuing Orlando possession, Evan Fournier hit his first three-point shot of the game. The Magic led 103-100 with 22.5 second left.
The Grizzlies' next possession was a disaster. They began by nearly throwing it away. A desperation heave by Jarell Martin missed the basket, and the Magic got the ball back. A few free throws later, Memphis was on its way out with a 107-100 loss, their 13th straight defeat.
The Grizzlies are off Sunday before heading to San Antonio to take on the Spurs, where they haven't won since prohibition. On the bright side, the Grizzlies never winning again means they'll have a decent shot at the number one pick. Yay!
- JaMychal Green was fantastic on the glass and facilitating, setting a career high with 7 assists, but he couldn't buy a basket. He finished the game just 2 of 12 from the floor, though he did have 10 points and 13 boards.
- Parsons looked a little rusty in his limited action. He ended the night with 4 points on 6 shots in 13 minutes, and there were times where his handle was sloppy. Fortunately, he's still got confidence in his pump fake.
- This shot from Mario Hezonja is what tanks are made of.
Now Mario Hezonja is getting into the spirit pic.twitter.com/tBhukyDkVZ— Peter Edmiston (@peteredmiston) March 4, 2018
- With Conley and Harrison out, everyone's favorite Hustle star, Kobi Simmons, saw significant minutes. He finished the game with 14 points on a nice 6-9 shooting, and was one of the biggest bright spots for the Grizzlies. This steal and finish in the early moments of the fourth quarter was one of the best plays of the game.
Consider your pocket, picked. pic.twitter.com/NqC7eIsPS3— Memphis Grizzlies (@memgrizz) March 4, 2018
- Mario Chalmers went to the locker room with a hamstring injury in the fourth. He did not return.