I’d love to blame Tony Brothers.
But I can’t.
Who or what to blame?
The Grizzlies, collectively. Yes, it’s easy to point at the rebounding numbers (the Griz were a staggeringly bad -14 on the night), but that stat is a symptom of the evening’s disease, and there’s a particular bug in that disease that raises a red flag as the season goes on.
Hustle, plain and simple. Even when they held a lead (and there were, to be sure, a few Grizzlies leads), they were tentative, passive, and “playing from behind”. The Nuggets are a tough matchup for the Griz (more on that in a moment), but the lack of effort once things started going the Nugs’ way was just unconscionable/inexcusable/etc. We should all be happy, I suppose, that the Griz did not go nuts and start sniping at the officials, or even worse, one another-but what happened was not good, and here’s what transpired: the Grizzlies ran into a team against whom they didn’t have instant positive matchups in the lane, and once they saw it, they let it go. Yes, ZBo kept his double-double streak alive-but his inability to get his real inside game working really hurt the Grizzlies.
Marc Gasol, who is seven feet tall, shot a rainbow over Javale McGee because..he had to. McGee would have sent it back like an overcooked steak. That one example tells the story.
Also, George Karl took the combination of the size he had to match up with the Griz inside and combined it with something that every opponent should do-double off Tony Allen and just watch the horrible possessions mount up. Sure, sure, TA scored six in a row to help the Griz eke out a teeny lead in the second half-but watching him try to create was cringe-inducing.
Now, to the red flag matchup problem. Remember how tough the Clippers make it on the Griz every time? Sure, Blake Griffin is awful at defense-but with him and Jordan in the game at the same time, Gasol and ZBo are out-pogosticked. And it wears these guys out to have to try to jump with guys who make their living knocking their heads on the ceiling. The Grizzlies will need to find a way to manufacture points when matchups like this present themselves. No, it isn’t 80% of the NBA, but there are teams that will make it tough on the Griz’ talented but floorbound frontline.
Also, Andre Miller. This guy should play until the AARP makes him quit. Aside from one uncharacteristically horrible crosscourt pass that made it a row or two past Chris Wallace’s seats, he played his fundamental old man game as well as he ever has. First ballot Grizkiller hall of famer.
Then, the bench. Bayless did what he could but was running into a giant Nugget every time down the floor. Speights hit a few nice shots-but his athletic ability barely eclipses ZBo’s and/or Gasol’s, and he too was unable to prevent the Nuggets from Hoovering seemingly every rebound that was available. Ellington was, disturbingly, the invisible man once again. Pondexter had good stretches, but he too was run in circles amongst the Nugs’ offensive schemes.
Get some rest, Grizzlies. It ain’t gettin’ any easier.