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Report Card: 4th quarter blues in Memphis

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Here goes nothing.

NBA: Denver Nuggets at Memphis Grizzlies Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

This game was reminiscent of the Conor McGregor, Floyd Mayweather fight.

The Memphis Grizzlies came out swinging, and you thought they could come away with the upset victory. However, the better team made adjustments and came back and won.

The first half was amazing! The Memphis Grizzlies came out swinging and hit some huge blows on the Denver Nuggets — the 2nd-best team in the Western Conference. Marc Gasol made clockwork out of Nikola Jokic and Mason Plumlee, tallying 21 points in the first half. Overall, the ball movement, the execution, and the energy were all on point, scoring 60 points jumping out to a 19-point halftime lead.

To be honest, I had the game on in the background and was more focused on my game of 2K in the third quarter. I know the emotional toll that 3rd quarters take, and I wasn’t feeling it tonight. However, the Grizzlies ended this quarter with a 17-point lead, leaving a nice glimmer of hope for another win.

Then, the fourth quarter happened. The Nuggets kept chipping away at the deficit, and ultimately took the lead with around two minutes left in the game. From there, it was hard for the Grizzlies to recover, as they dropped this game 95-92.

I’ll give credit where credit is due. This Denver Nuggets team is great. Mike Malone is a terrific coach. Nikola Jokic is a MVP candidate for a reason, and he has a great supporting cast around him.

Despite all that, it doesn’t erase the fact that this game though just hit different, and there probably won’t be a more demoralizing game we’ll see this season. This game could’ve been the last time we see Mike Conley and Marc Gasol in a Grizzly uniform in FedExForum, and it was all a nightmare. You hate to see it, but it might have been the absolute dagger for the Grit ‘n’ Grind era.

Let’s round up some grades.


NBA: Denver Nuggets at Memphis Grizzlies Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Bench

  • Joakim Noah (B+)

I loved the energy Joakim gave supplied in this one. He was a beast on the boards. He also did a good job of pushing the ball up the floor and getting the offense going before the defense set up. I was a hater of the signing, but Joakim Noah has been a good, fun addition for this Grizzly team — he also looks like a solid veteran to keep in the locker room for this inevitable rebuild.

  • Bruno Caboclo (C-)

Even after Saturday’s awesome coming-out game, you can’t expect much from a 10-day guy. However, I would like it if a guy with his size attacked the rim more often. He’s a decent shooter, but there’s no reason for a guy with his physical tools to be gunning 3’s like he’s JR Smith.

  • Shelvin Mack (um.. I don’t know)

Mack gets a lot of hate, but he dished out 6 assists in 18 minutes — which is what you want out of a backup point guard. He was the one of only 3 players that wasn’t a negative in the +/- (+0). JB Bickerstaff’s willingness to play him in crucial crunch-time minutes though is odd though.

NBA: Denver Nuggets at Memphis Grizzlies Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Starters

  • Jaren Jackson Jr. (C)

The box score looked nice for the rookie, as he actually grabbed rebounds (7) and had good defensive numbers (3 blocks, 2 steals). He also led the team in +/- (+9). However, he didn’t do much scoring-wise, only scoring 8 points — including 6 first-half points. This matchup wasn’t great for Jackson, as Paul Millsap is one of the best defenders at his position.

  • Kyle Anderson (C-)

It was nice to have Anderson back. He leaks out in transition well, and it was great around the basket. He finished with 9 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, and a +/- of +1. However, that last sequence was a blunder.

YIKES.

  • Justin Holiday (C)

Holiday did a great job spacing the floor and hitting open 3s. I don’t really want to see him playing 40 minutes again though. It’d also be nice if he stopped shooting pull-up mid-range jumpers.

  • Mike Conley (B)

By the box score, Mike Conley looked great in the first half, staying in attack mode without turning the ball over. He ultimately fell victim to Denver’s adjustments, coughing the ball up 3 times. On the bright side, he finished with another 20-10 double double (23 points and 11 assists).

  • Marc Gasol (A)

Usually, it’s easy to point fingers at Marc Gasol, but I just couldn’t in this game. He really set the tone in this game with his aggression in the first half. Like Conley, and the Grizzlies team as a whole for that matter, he fell victim to Denver’s adjustments — and the brilliance of Nikola Jokic. He did everything you could ask for: not shying away from deep, not wasting time in the post, and putting pressure on Denver’s big men.

The Coach

Oof...

You know the grade here.

This JB Bickerstaff performance was just another episode for this Grizzlies season. The Grizzlies did an excellent job in the first half, but Bickerstaff stayed complacent and failed to act accordingly to the opposing team’s adjustments.

This is just another case where Bickerstaff got outcoached. Even as a JB defender, I don’t know how much longer this could happen; something has to change.

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