Well I didn't get to watch the first game against Portland as I was on a business trip, but this game hurts. Memphis failed to hold onto a 9 point lead near the end of the 3rd quarter and a 5 point lead in the closing minutes to lose to a team that should not have been in the game. This was an important game for the Grizzlies as they have 13 remaining games this month and 10 of the teams have winning records. Now instead of heading to Houston with a two game winning streak and having won 4 out of 5 games they go on the road for a huge three game trip without Darko, without a winning streak and a bad taste in their mouths.
Props go to Mike Miller for a great game but why didn't he take a foul on that last play? It is beyond me what he and the coaching staff were thinking when you are up one with less than three seconds and no time on the clock. That put a damper on his 30 pt, 7 rebound game.
Rudy Gay had a great game and an incredible tip on the Grizzlies last possession to give the team the lead. Rudy also had 30 points with 8 rebounds and 3 assists. Rudy was big all night and he is really becoming the all-around threat that Jerry West envisioned when he traded Shane Battier for him two years ago.
Pau Gasol played well with 16 pts and 14 rebounds (a season high) but was obviously tired at the end of the game. Stro's foul troubles, Darko's injury and Portland's size took its toll on Pau. He gave his all but everyone watching the game had to notice the numerous fast possessions that Pau didn't make it past half court on. To be a truly effective big man in Iavaroni's offense he has to be among the first down the court not the last. I don't know why but Pau looked dreadfully out of shape tonight.
Navarro missed the big shot on the last possession but it was good to see him given the chance. Of all the players on the team Navarro seems most comfortable taking that shot even if he is a rookie. If someone is going to take that shot I want it to be Navarro right now. Hopefully the fact that he missed on this attempt won't prevent him from getting more opportunities in those situations.
Watching the game made me realize just what the team is still missing. We don't have that player who takes the ball in his hands and makes something happen in crunch time. Brandon Roy was the player for Portland who created at the end of the game. Memphis doesn't have that type of player. If and when a deal comes down I hope it will be for a player with that potential.
Portland benefited for the 2nd night in a row from an opponent's big man going down with a twisted ankle. Against San Antonio it didn't matter but it did against Memphis. That one facet had more to do with the Grizzlies losing this game to me than anything else.
It was an exciting game but in the end another game that the Grizzlies had a chance to win but lost in the final seconds or in this case final second. Hopefully it won't leave a hangover but you have to imagine that this game will leave the team with a black eye similiar to the one Gasol started the game with.
Well, Chip covered just about everything I was going to say already, but there were a few things I took away from this game.
1. Juan Carlos Navarro is the new fan favorite on Beale Street. The people around me cheered more loudly for his entrance into the game than they did during the opening introductions I think. If he keeps playing like he did tonight, he'll start getting some more recognition around the league, too.
2. While I like what Navarro brings to the table, he is going to have to curb his tendency to play too much "help defense" as he, along with Rudy Gay and Kyle Lowry, left their man wide open for perimeter shots time and time again. In my opinion, this was a big factor in Portland being able to stay in the game all night long.
3. What was up with Nate McMillan's "Jolly Green Giant" look tonight? Green suit with a green mock turtleneck? I'm no fashion expert, but that ensemble was one of the few things I laughed at tonight.
Tough loss tonight, but hopefully the players will learn from it, the coaching staff will make adjustments based on it and the front office (mainly Chris Wallace and Marc Iavaroni) will make sound evaluations about the players off of it.
Chris Herrington has some great thoughts up on Beyond the Arc, as well. You can also read The Inferno for the Portland perspective of tonight's game.
10 Things From Zack:
1. At one point, half the players on the court were Small Forwards (Outlaw, Webster, Jones, Gay, Miller by my count).
2. Losing Darko to another injury hurts really bad. He is clearly our best defender at the rim. Hurts worse than losing the game.
3. I thought Pau was horrible on offense for most of the game. Just weak. Actually, I credit him with a triple-double tonight. 14 points, 15 rebounds, 13 flails. What happened to Pau's post game? Now, he seems to just spin and head towards the basket, flailing about, looking for a foul. Ugh. Get stronger!
4. Rudy is a stud.
5. The "La Bomba" scoreboard thing after JC cranks a big shot is awesome. And in the past I have joked that Navarro could get punched in the face and the other guy wouldn't get called for a foul. White Mutumbo did almost that, numerous times, on one play in the first half after Navarro got caught in a switch. And no foul was called!!! Ridiculous.
6. I echo what PMI said in the game thread. I am worried about Lowry's body language tonight. After being benched when he missed that layup (and missed the obvious pass), he displayed some pretty discouraging body language the rest of the night. He also came out of the half about 3 minutes after everyone else and went straight to the bench (instead of shooting) and seemed a little down even then. After the game, Iavaroni mentioned that Portland was scheming against Kyle and frustrating him. I took it to mean he was talking about when we were on offense since Kyle played horrible on offense and pretty good on defense.
7. For a team that averages so many points per game, I have no confidence in the ability to get a basket.
8. There was no doubt in my (or HPTMatt's) mind at the end of the game that Portland was going to make the last bucket. It was pretty obvious. Did you know it was one year (plus a day) ago when Posey hit that game winning running 3 pointer? The Griz just usually lose games at the buzzer, not win them.
9. However, I swear it should have been a 5 second in-bounds violation.
10. But then again the game wasn't decided at the end. It was decided during 2 different stretches. The first was the start of the 3rd quarter where the Griz looked absolutely dead with no energy or concentration. We committed 3 turnovers, had 2 bricks, and let the Blazer's score 9 straight to take a lead. The second was the end of the 3rd (and beginning of 4th). After 2 straight turnovers and allowing 3 straight made buckets, Pau tried to heave it down court with a few seconds remaining, but instead allowed Outlaw to get a steal and then a top of the key 3. Then to compound it, we turned the ball over again to start the 4th.
1. This is consistent for this team. The team hasn't won a close game all year simply because we can't get key baskets and we can't make stops. Even if we do happen to force missed shots down the stretch, we tend to give up offensive rebounds.
2. How does Rudy Gay not have the ball in his hands down the stretch? I watched Dallas last night when Chicago was trying to make a comeback on them and it was the Jason Terry-Josh Howard two man game. That is what should be happening between Juan Carlos Navarro and Rudy Game late in games.
3. Did anyone think that Pau was going to win the game when they fed him in the post? Or were you just happy he was able to get it out of his hand before Aldridge or Roy took it from him?
4. Rudy Gay is not a Phoenix "4". He is the prototype for what small forwards should be in this league. Gay has a beautiful jumpshot.
5. It is going to be a rough December.
UPDATE: Ron Tillery wrote in his Memphis Edge blog that
"Mike Miller, who defended Outlaw on the play, said Monday night that it was talked about during the time out. Head coach Marc Iavaroni shed more light on the sequence and his philosophy after Tuesday’s practice.
Iavaroni said he instructed the Grizzlies NOT to foul anyone on a drive to the basket. He doesn’t believe in that. So Miller did exactly what he was told to in that situation because Iavaroni didn’t want to risk a referee’s questionable call sending Outlaw to the free throw line.
Iavaroni noted that fouling on a drive to the basket and whether to consider “continuation” can be interpreted many ways by an official. He pointed out that Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant recently benefited from a generous call.
Sometimes all it takes is for a player to flail his arms and act as if he was shooting to con an official into awarding free throws. It’s something that actually happened in the Griz-Blazers game when a Portland player was clearly fouled before attempting a shot but was considered to be in the act of shooting."
Interesting attitude by the coach.