The Grizzlies just lost their ninth out of ten games last night at home to the Milwaukee Bucks. A team that was once 12-5 to start the year, sitting on top of the Western Conference, feeling great about their renewed sense of grit and grind, zigging when the rest of the league zagged. That was the motto, and for a month into the season, it looked like all was going well, Marc was playing some of the best basketball of his career, Mike was healthy, things were going great.
Fast forward to a locker room after a devastating loss in a game where the final score was not indicative of the type of game it was at all. I picked up my phone to start recording when Garrett and I were about to start talking, he let out a big sigh knowing what he was about to say he had already told me before. You could see it in his face, the frustration. There is not one NBA basketball player that wants to lose, not even the ones that are tanking, this locker room full of players is no different.
“We just gotta compete,” Temple said “it’s nothing you can really talk about doing you just have to go out and compete and not let one run, basically, put you in the dirt, and that’s what we did and that’s honestly been a thing, we gotta figure something out.”
The last few games have been the same, you could sub out that Rockets game for the loss to the Bucks on Wednesday and it would not have looked any different. This team played hard, they competed in the first half. They were in both of these games, even after James Harden scored 36 points, they were still in that game. The first halves of these games had one thing in common. Effort. The ability to play hard in a game even when you’re not shooting the ball well can get you through stretches. At the beginning of the game against the Bucks game, the starters were 2-14 from the field, shooting an abysmal 16% from behind the arc, but they played hard, they competed, so the game didn’t get too far out of hand.
The bench unit was able to come in those games and either keep them in the game or in the case on Wednesday, get them back into it. That’s what playing with effort gets you, it keeps you within reach when the game isn’t going your way. The second halves of these games have been from the same playbook as well, they’re letting a team get into one run and then giving up.
When Mike Conley was asked about the run in the second half of Bucks game he said, “We have to do a better job of those points in the games, of realizing what’s going on, when they make a run, when we turn the ball over, don’t get a good possession, to find something within ourselves to calm things down, not panic, and not let one play turn into two or three, and really snowball into what you saw in that third.”
The effort for this team has to continue for the entire forty eight minutes. It’s one thing to lose games in a row, when you play hard and you compete for the whole game. Fans can appreciate, especially in Memphis, a hard working basketball team. That’s what this city’s team was built on, this grit and grind mentality. It’s an entirely different notion to roll over when the game gets tough, when you let your opponent get six or seven points in a row.
At the beginning on the year, this Grizzlies team fought and clawed for those twelve wins. The offense wasn’t great, but what kept them in those games was the defense, it was the grit and grind that existed for so many years before this team. It was playing games in the mud, where no other NBA team wanted to be, except for the Grizzlies. Finding that effort starts at the top, it begins with the starters every single game. They have to play with a winning intensity for the entire game, not just the first half.
Garrett Temple was asked if the effort of this team is where it should be right now, “No. You let somebody go on a 19-0 run some type of way you gotta figure something out, so I don’t think the effort is where it needs to be.”
“All Heart” as the great Tony Allen once said. The team has lost it’s heart, it’s lost the grit and grind they they started season with, and if they want to win, they better find it.